As suggested in Part 1, it should be unacceptable for Christians to have only as much interest in the first few chapters of Genesis as is needed to prove all the secularists wrong and to demonstrate that we are here only to be saved for another world. Yet we all know that this happens, often with an arrogance and closed-mindedness that befits the stereo-types we find so offensive. We can and must do better, not only in order to bear witness to the Maker of heaven and earth, but in oder to do what we were created to do in the first place.
My premise here is that the third chapter of Genesis, however it is read, does not negate the second chapter. It does explain why the mandates of chapter two (and the end of chapter one) are attended with great difficulty; but it does not nullify the significance of carrying out what people were given to do in the first place. Whatever literal (whatever that means) or metaphorical significance there is in the garden, the trees, the cherubim guardians, and the fiery revolving sword, Adam was a working being before and after the disaster of disobedience.
What sorts of work are included in the mandate? Certainly agriculture is prominent. But much more is implied. Have you noticed the mention of gold, bdellium, and lapis lazuli. What is the point if they were not meant to be mined, refined, and used in some fashion? The narrative even bothers to mention the quality of gold in one specific location, which indicates an interest in the recipients of the command having the wherewithal to find said place and travel there. Naming and distinguishing the riches of the earth, the bounty of the fields, and even the living creatures are among the tasks to which God has set mankind to engage in ways that both honored the Maker, continued the work of developing the planet, and providing significance to the one called Adam but typifying all who would come after him. The nature of the tasks set before him are clearly more appropriately understood as corporate, cooperative endeavors than as individual tasks. Agronomy, biology, animal husbandry, geology, geography, physics, chemistry, and on and on—all of them more than necessary evils engaged to make a living; they are ways of doing what we were made to do.
How do we work? In the image of the Creator, who made things methodically, purposively, beautifully—and well. At least that is the creative intent. We learn of the planning, the ordering, the doing, and the assessment of work as carried out by God in the first chapter. The beings carrying His image and likeness are then set about to doing things in like manner. Craftsmanship, artistry, care, and satisfaction with one’s product are to characterize the work we all do.
There are many implications of our being thinking and working beings from our very beginning as a race of specially designed creatures. One of the most telling, especially for those of us in a conservative Christian tradition, is that we are not doing something less than the best when we are given to careers in “non-spiritual” activities. Our giftedness is not unspiritual when it lies in creating things. Our value does not rise when we work “for the church” instead of “in the world.” We should be fulfilled in doing the work God has given us to do; and as managers and employers of other workers it should be recognized that each of them bears the same image and dignity.
Question: how well do we do at encouraging and equipping people to do the things they were made to do, and how might we do it better? There is a time, place and necessity for talking about what our fallenness does to our response to what we were made to do; but let’s try to understand that purpose first; it might give us some clues as to what redemption is for.