Tag Archives: Adam & Eve

A Biblical Theology of Work – Part 1

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

oil on wood panel

oil on wood panel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been referred to as the Cultural Mandate.  It is a requirement from God of all human beings that we reproduce ourselves in order to fill the earth and subdue it.  God built a planet we call Earth capable of sustaining many billions of people and He wants us, commands us, to rule over it in a way that in fact does sustain us.  This requires work, effort on our part, to successfully accomplish the utilization of Earth’s resources in a way that pleases God and brings life to Earth’s population — us.

Before Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3) God gave them work to do (Genesis 2) that included taking care of the Garden of Eden (2:15) and understanding and overseeing the animals of this area (2:19,20).  This responsibility did not cease after man’s rebellion, but became fraught with frustration as the ground began to work against man’s best efforts to grow food.  In the process human beings developed systems for raising livestock, growing food, producing music and forging tools (Genesis 4), all of which were necessary for our health and development as divine-image replicators.

In contrast to the pagan notions of man’s responsibilities, God did not create us to be His slaves and do all His dirty work.  He made us to be presidents to His chief executive role, vice-regents to His kingly rule, and managers for His owner-operated business.  There are at least three implications to this Cultural Mandate:

  • We are workers under divine appointment

We are not independent contractors.  The work we are called to do is or should be determined by God.  We are responsible for knowing what kind of work would be acceptable to Him in faithfully caring for His world and each other.  We may say that providing prostitution, or drugs, or control over other people is providing a service, but it is not the kind of service God says helps His world thrive.  And of course, He knows best what will make us thrive.  Our work must be of the kind that furthers the honor of God and the welfare of mankind.  This is His world and we are asked to share in making it livable.

  • We are stewards of God’s green earth

A steward is someone who takes care of someone else’s property.  His or her responsibility is not to own it but to develop it for the sake of the owner.  It just so happens in this case that the owner, God, has made us partners in the ownership, but nevertheless, He is the principle owner.  So our work must serve to develop and utilize, not exploit for ourselves, the world He has given us.  This means we must use arts and technology wisely and lovingly to reflect the character of God and benefit our race (see Lessons from the Old Testament: Arts and Technology).  It must certainly mean that we do not so exploit our world that we make it less habitable or reduce its quality of livability.

  • The more of us there are, the more work that needs to be done

We were made to care for each other the way God cares for us.  So as we multiply we need to create better systems for caring for each others’ needs for food, shelter, beauty, clothing and protection.  Our goal cannot be personal wealth but public weal, the prosperity and well-being that we can secure for all people.  And though it might be argued that capitalism is the best system in a fallen world for such public weal, sinners always find a way to take personal advantage of even the best systems to the detriment of others, and those who submit to God look for ways no matter the system to help others thrive.

Are you a plumber?  You are helping me and our whole culture thrive.  Do you grow food, deliver and sell food, make clothes, sell insurance, pave roads, build buildings, serve in government, paint pictures, make music, heal, administer funds, advocate for lawbreakers, develop community laws, cut hair, raise livestock, put out fires or any number of other “professions”?  You are working as God’s appointees to tend His world and people in ways that make it possible for us to fill the earth.  You are so cool, because the part that you play combined with the part that I play and all of us play makes possible a relatively peaceful and prosperous life.  We are caring for each other under God’s wise direction, and that’s what makes the world go round.

For further reading:

What is the Cultural Mandate?

The Cultural Mandate

What the Cultural Mandate Means for Your Work

Video and Resources from Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City


Lessons From the Old Testament: The Two-Fold Means of Salvation

In Genesis 3:15 God promises to defeat the Tempter, Satan, through an offspring of the woman, Eve, as a means of restoring the lost Garden of Eden, God’s Kingdom.  We are not told what the conflict between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman will look like, but it will be continual until the offspring of the woman bruises (or crushes) the head of the serpent.  With the final finishing off of the serpent there will no longer be an enemy of God and mankind to lead us astray.  This does not address our own ability to lead ourselves astray, but you have the whole rest of the Bible to explain that aspect of it.

What is fascinating is how what follows God’s pronouncements to the serpent, the woman and the man, is a demonstration of the nature of how one finds his or her way back into relationship with God.  We are told that some time after God speaks this way Adam names his wife Eve because she is the mother of all living.  Now it is not that he didn’t understand that Eve was going to have children before the “Fall,” but there seems to be a new sense of urgency and understanding here.  Why didn’t he name her before this event?  The most likely explanation, assuming the naming did follow the disobedience, is that Adam is responding to God’s message of hope in 3:15 with faith.

His faith encompasses the contours of the promise.  The offspring of his wife is going to overcome the offspring of the serpent.  There is going to be perpetual conflict, but it will be resolved with the death of the offspring of the serpent.  This makes all births a potential arena for this conflict.  Who will be the ones who will represent the spirit of rebellion and self-direction that the serpent displayed?  Who will be the ones who stand in harmony with God and against the principles of the serpent?  Whoever they may be Adam has come to believe that this is going to be the agency God uses to restore His kingdom.  And so Adam names his wife in accord with this promise.

The question, however, is this:  Is faith in the promise of God enough to restore us to right relationship with God?  And the answer is, “NO!”  Faith is the key to the restoration of this relationship.  We can’t work hard enough to restore it.  Adam doesn’t go out and begin looking for people to help or in any other way seek to demonstrate that he is now aligned with God.  He trusts God’s words and God’s character, the very thing he failed to do when he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see previous post, Lessons From the Old Testament: What Satan Wants For Us).  But it isn’t enough to start doing good and expect that everything is now hunky dory with God.  It is not even enough to demonstrate faith in God’s goodness and promise.  How do we know?

What happens next instructs us that restored relationship with God has another crucial component.  Sacrifice!  In response, it seems, to Adam’s act of faith (naming Eve), God clothes the couple with animal skin.  That, of course, means He had to take the life of the animal or animals in order to get their pelts.  Innocent creatures had to die so that Adam and Eve’s nakedness might be covered.  One life had to be substituted for another.  And though it does not even hint of this, the preparation for the idea of the offspring of the woman being a sacrifice has begun.  The bruising of his heel takes on a new dimension throughout the rest of the Old Testament as we see the insufficiency of animal sacrifice to take away sin beg for something more.  When we reach Isaiah 53 we are given more explicit hope.

So, right here in Genesis we have explained for us the two-fold means of salvation.  We must have FAITH in the promise of God, and this salvation must be paid for by SACRIFICE.  No other religion on the face of the earth has these two requirements.  Every other religion requires works of good deeds as a sort of “payment” to God for our salvation.  And even where forgiveness is offered for failure to perform all that is required, it is never offered on the basis of a substitutionary sacrifice that pays the penalty in our place for our own disobedience.  Thus, only Christianity makes possible a salvation that does not depend  on our performance and is thus for everyone, and also shows the absolute severity of the consequences of sin by requiring a just penalty.  That God ends up paying the price Himself is the height of true love meeting the demand of true holiness.