“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
Work is not a new thing. It is not some evolutionary survival technique that developed and then went sideways, enslaving humanity in an endless cycle of toilsome labor. Nor is work a more recent invention of the humanist project seeking to gain power, prestige, and material dominance over one’s neighbor.
No, from a biblical perspective, work was a part of the plan from the very beginning. It was a component of God’s good design from the get-go. When the Creator (worker) God crafted human beings in His own image and likeness, the ability, necessity, and power to work was embedded deep within us. God works, so His creatures work. In this manner we truly are, to borrow the crude expression, “a chip off the old block.”
Not only are we workers, but we are workers with a specific task. We are meant to carry forward God’s grand and wondrous building project. This is why we were fashioned in His image. This is why He called us to “Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground (Genesis 1:28b)”. We are to engage in the work that God began. This is His gift to us. We take the raw materials and untapped potentiality of this world and sculpt it into beautiful, useful, God-honoring things! This is the purpose of work. And it is all part of God’s mind-blowing and mysterious plan.
But then…the fall. Humanity rebels against God. We decide we want to make the rules. We want to determine what is right and wrong, good and evil. We want to construct a world after our own selfish desires and intentions. Because of this, the work of our hands is cursed to be menacing and difficult. Yet, not without hope.
God promises restoration. Though it takes many long years, the first fruits of this restoration appears. It is a man—the God-man—Jesus of Nazareth. He is the one by whom and through whom God is remaking all things. Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God is redeeming the whole world. Through faith, He is redeeming us also. And with us, our work.
Once more, we can do work that carries forward God’s incredible building project. We become co-laborers in His Kingdom work. Whenever we create, or build, or develop in faith, hope, beauty, justice, and goodness we are bringing the Kingdom of God to bear on this world. In this, we are fulfilling God’s good and necessary plan for humanity!