The theme of Work is closely linked and intertwined in my Personal life purpose. (So please excuse me if I get carried away!) To be a man after God’s own heart, then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same. I desperately, wholeheartedly, and unashamedly want to labour for others to know my God.
Paul, the apostle, puts it in language that my heart thrums to hear: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me’ (Colossians 1:29)
I know that salvation isn’t a work I can muster for others, or even myself, nevertheless it is a work God has invited me to co-labour with Him in (see Matthew 28:20). This is why I seek to ‘work out my salvation with fear and trembling’ – souls are at stake!
Anyway, I digress! We’re looking at Genesis 2:4-25, not my life purpose or even the various quotes from the New Testament. In this story God is seen giving man work to do (working the ground and naming the animals – manual labour and mental labour). From this passage we can see the beautiful intention for work, before it is corrupted by sin in Chapter 3!
Firstly, this passage calls us to check our attitude towards work.
Do we idolise it? Do we sacrifice everything else to our work, our time, money, relationships, energy, our praise and worship? Does it define us? Do we give our work authority to value us, determine our worth, to rule over us?
Or do we avoid it? Do we seek to shrug off our duty, hand it over to someone else, negate our responsibilities?
God has given work to us, as a gift, something to thank Him for, something to appreciate His creation with, to bring form to the formless. It is a gift to be stewarded wisely and faithfully. Elsewhere the Bible writers remind us ‘to remember God who has given you the ability to make wealth’ (Deut 8:18). Surely our work is a gift and our attitude & response to it should be such!
Secondly, this passage defines what work and creativity are intended to be.
There was quite a bit that came up regarding the Protestant work ethic, and the western world’s unhealthy obsession with work. In my own reading I’ve encountered several voices that talk about the dangers of overworking, and seeing work as a means to power, prestige, possessions, wealth, freedom, happiness or life.
So how does this passage define work and creativity? Interestingly, our work and creativity is to be modelled on the work and creativity of God. This means that creativity is less about “innovation”, self-expression or making economic value (although these are good things). It is not about tirelessly, endlessly, striving in a chaotic, grab-as-much-as-you-can manner. No, the creativity of God is about:
- Bringing form to the formless, order to the chaos
- Transforming and making new
- Defining, naming and creating boundaries
- Filling and enabling to flourish
- Sharing and appreciating
This is the defined work and creativity we are called to.
Thirdly, this passage allows us to see work as an invitation for us to come alongside God!
We see that nothing had grown because 1) God had not sent rain and 2) no one had worked the ground. Both God and man are to work the garden, it is a joint assignment. We may be tempted to think our work is all our responsibility and worry and fret whenever something goes wrong or is difficult. On the other hand we may be tempted to think that work is all God’s responsibility and we can take a back seat and put our feet up. Neither view is correct. Work is a joint project. Embrace it.
Invite God to help you, ask God how you can help Him. (Not because God needs our help, but because He delights to work alongside us!)
After studying this passage I invited God to help me work, both in my full time job at Cancer Research, and in the other ‘work’ God has given me. The work of discipleship, marriage, friendship, family, church, using my gifts….even my blog. God please help me, give me wisdom!
This is why Paul writes: that he strenuously contends with all the energy that Christ works in Him (Col 1:29). He declares that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because it is the Lord who works in you! (Phil 2:12-13). This is why Paul says that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to do good works prepared by Him in advance. (Eph 2:10)