The alarm clock has sounded, you’ve finished breakfast, and are racing off to your job. Would you be going to work if Adam and Eve had never eaten from that off-limits tree? Many Christians think not.
From Genesis 3, they believe work came about as part of God’s sentence for sin. Some have even been taught to see work this way.
Truth is, God gave us work not to demean but to dignify us. It came about as a gift, not as a curse. God pronounced the curse on the ground, not on work (Gen. 3:17). That curse, of course, made work difficult
(thorns, thistles, sweat, pain). But it did not destroy the goodness of the work itself.
How do we know work is good? Because it is the first thing God reveals himself as doing. “In the
beginning, God created . . .” (Gen. 1:1). Then, no less than three times, Gen. 2:2 and 3 call his creating
activity “work.” Before sin enters the picture, God the Worker creates human workers in his own likeness.
He actually delayed the growth of shrubs and plants “because there was no man to work the ground”
(Gen. 2:5). But soon after creating Adam, God “put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of
it” (Gen. 2:15).
So yes, even if Adam and Eve had never tasted the forbidden fruit, you’d still work. Why would anyone
need to work in a sinless world? Picture the work God assigned to us before sin as “unfurling” work. Like
a folded-up sail, flag, or parachute, God’s original creation was perfectly made with its parts all in place.
But to reveal its potential, it needed to be unfurled, unpacked, or opened out.
Seeds, for example, could produce fruit-bearing plants. But God chose to use human hands to do the
work of planting, watering, and harvesting. Food from those plants needed to be distributed and prepared.
The animals God created needed someone to take responsibility for their care. God had already
established this unfurling kind of work before sin ever entered the picture (Gen. 1:26-30).
The Fall made another kind of work necessary—for God and for us. This is “undoing” work, undoing the
damage caused by sin, the work of repairing or restoring. We might say sin “tore the sail” and introduced
the need for mending. For God, this required the work of redemption accomplished by his Son, Jesus
Christ, in his first coming to the earth. We share in this work by announcing the good news and
demonstrating the difference it makes in our lives. The effects of sin require many other kinds of undoing
work as well: fixing, restoring, making broken things whole.
You take part in such undoing work if you repair cars, refurbish computers, renovate houses, or treat
patients. There’s plenty of the original, pre-sin work of unfurling still to be done too. In your daily work
you may take on both unfurling and undoing tasks. In either case, your work still matters to God—as well
as to people, animals, plants, and the earth itself.
Written by Larry Peabody, Theology of Work Professor for BGU
The Bakke Graduate University offers both masters and doctoral courses in the theology of
work—what God has revealed about his purposes for business and our daily work.