To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:17-24)
Once upon a time, humans walked with God in his good world as his image bearing, his co-creators, commissioned to fill the land with goodness, beauty, creativity, and the very presence of God. We were tasked with caring for His creation, building it up, and making new things out of its raw potential. But, as we all know, this beautiful communion did not last. Tragedy soon befell us. A lie was whispered to humans and, in weakness, we fell for it. From that moment, everything was different. Disruption and disunity filled our lives and the land all around us. We became separatists, choosing our own way instead of the way of our gracious Creator God.
God could not tolerate such overt rebellion. So, he handed out the punishment due our disobedience and faithlessness. Part of this punishment was the loss of our ability to fully engage in the work God gave us to do. In Genesis 3:17 we are told that creation itself would no longer submit to the creative endeavors of humanity. Instead, it would struggle against humans and thus, humans would be crippled in their attempts to work and cultivate the earth. Our attempts to create something of the world would now become painstakingly difficult. It is here that humans felt the loss of our true power to be the co-laborers God created us to be.
Such is the loss we feel to this day. We struggle with our work. Often we see it as simply a means to an end. Other times, we see work as a necessary evil. And, in various other ways, we view our work as difficult, pointless, or even a hindrance to our well-being. This is due to the loss that took place so long ago that still permeates our world today.
However, as we will see next week, this loss is not permanent. For in his graciousness, the Creator God has given us hope in the coming King!