Created for Work
If you want to read the whole story, you can find it here. Read chapters 2 and 3.
Part 1: Created for work and for the earth
Genesis 2 tells us that humanity were created for work, and that the earth and humanity were created for each other. These are actually two sides of the same coin, and each side helps us understand the other. Let’s begin by taking a close look at Genesis 2:5.
Now no shrub of the field yet existed in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no human to work the ground.
The picture in Genesis 2 is a little different than that in Genesis 1. In the beginning, the earth was a barren, dusty wasteland. There were certainly no cultivated plants, but there were not even wilderness plants – shrubs of the field and herbs of the field. The two words here are mostly associated with plants one would experience in the wilderness. One can potentially get food from them, but they do not actively give us that food like fruit trees do. So not even wild shrubs are on the earth. Why is that? Because the conditions were not yet right. First, God had not yet caused it to rain. There was, however, a mist that went up from the earth to water the ground, so there was some moisture. The most important condition, however, was that there was no human to work the ground.
This is an important detail not to be passed up in our mad dash to reconcile every detail of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. In Genesis 2, the fullness of creation was awaiting a necessary precondition: the presence of humanity to work the ground and to protect it. Humanity was made to fill a lack, to pursue a purpose. This purpose is closely connected to the earth. We were made for the earth, and we were made for work.
These two facts really turn out to be one fact once we examine them closely. Work, in the primitive environment of Genesis 2, is tantamount to cultivating and caring for the earth. It’s not until civilization brings the division of labor that we start to see work whose connection to the earth is less obvious. In Genesis 2, there is no work other than earth-related work. And interestingly, even though earth-related work seems to be the work that is most closely connected to sustenance and therefore to survival, unlike today, the work God set the man to doing is not ultimately about survival. Rather, it is about obedience to God’s created purpose:
(15) The LORD God took the man and set him in the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it. (16) And the LORD God commanded the man saying, “From the fruit of any tree of the garden you may eat,
The man’s material needs had already been provided for when God put him in the garden of Eden and set him to work. The garden had already been planted and there were already trees of every kind that were pleasant to look at and that produced food that was good to eat. The reason for man’s work in the beginning was not survival. It was joyful obedience. So what we see is that man was made for work and he was made to work the earth, to care for it, to learn about it, and to improve it (this is what cultivation is). At the same time, the earth was made for man. It was made to provide for his needs and to bring him joy.