As we come to back to the story of creation we find a remarkable truth: the Creator God not only created humankind to be his creatures, but also to be his partners in the creative process of causing the world to flourish. In Genesis chapter one we find a summary of the six days of creation. In chapter two, we find a little more detail about day six. After describing the creation of the man and the garden (vv. 7-14), verse 15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.”
God could have created the garden to be self-sustaining with no need for care, but He didn’t. Instead he created humans to “work” the garden and to “take care” of the garden with the idea of making it flourish. Verse 5 sheds an interesting light on this: “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.” To answer this need, the following verses talk about the creation of Adam, the garden, and the reason for the creation of Adam, being “to work it (the garden) and take care of it (the garden).” Remember after God created male and female in His image, Gen 1:28 says, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’”
I wonder if, while God had finished all the work He was going to do, all the work He wanted done was not yet finished. Creation was “good” (actually “very good” – Gen 1:31) but not yet complete. I wonder if perhaps what God is saying to Adam is, “Here is what I’ve made (the garden) and it’s very good. Now you go and make the rest of the world look like this.”
Then, of course, we have the creation of Eve to join Adam. Join him to do what? Join him to “be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it, work the garden and take care of the garden.” To partner with God by taking what God had created in the garden and making the rest of the world look like that. Cause it to flourish and to be beautiful, providing for the needs of every human who would subsequently be born into it.
Now, we know sin enters in Genesis 3 and makes God’s charge a lot more difficult than it was originally intended to be, but does it do away with God’s initial design and charge to humankind? I don’t think so. I think the same charge is given to each of us today, to partner with God to cause our “garden” to be fruitful and multiply, to work it and take care of it and cause it to flourish so the needs of humanity are met.
Is that why Paul, speaking to “workers” in Colossians 3:23-24, says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” I can’t tell you the number of times over 38 years of serving on a church staff, people have said to me something like, “I wish I was in the Lord’s work.” I finally started responding by saying, “Why aren’t you?”
According to Col. 3:23-24 you actually are “in the Lord’s work” if you are a follower of Christ. He is your boss no matter your job. Granted, there are some ways of making money in this world that could never be seen as glorifying to God and should be avoided by Christians. But if you are a follower of Jesus, there is no sacred-secular divide. The job you do that produces flourishing for your family and other people, as a result of the great economic network we are all part of, is to be done for the glory of God according to 1 Cor. 10:31.
What is your garden?
With what have you been entrusted by God?
For what are you responsible to “tend and care” so that it will be “fruitful and multiply” for the glory of God?
About Jim Hislop
Jim Hislop is the Director of Western Seminary's Center for Leadership Development.