July 27, 2015 • Life for Leaders
[T]herefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”
As we come to the close of Genesis 3, God kicks the man (and, by implication, the woman with him) out of the garden of Eden. The Hebrew verb translated in verse 24 as “drove out” is a strong one (garash). It suggests that the Lord did not play the role of the English butler, showing Adam and Eve politely to the door. Rather, he cast them out of Eden with force and determination, placing supernatural guards at the entry to the garden to make sure the first couple could never return.
I find it fascinating that verse 23 tells us that God “sent [the man] forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.” The verb translated here as “till” is the standard Hebrew verb for “to serve” (‘abad). Some interpreters of the biblical story have wrongly concluded from this verse that work is divine punishment for sin. They neglect that fact that ‘abad was used in Genesis 2:15 for God’s original intentions for the man, who was to “till” the garden as well as “keep” it. In other words, after his expulsion from Eden, the man will continue to do the work for which he was created, though now it will be harder and less rewarding. The fruitlessness and frustration associated with work are a result of sin. Work itself is part of God’s good intentions for humankind.
So, even though the first couple sinned, even though they were not faithful stewards of the responsibility and authority given to them by God, even though their sin messed up God’s “very good” world, God did not fire them. He did not take away the task that he had given them in creation. God did not remove them from the crucial job of tilling and keeping the earth, not to mention being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, subduing it, and ruling over the earth’s creatures. Yes, sin messes up human work. But humans continue to work outside of Eden.
The reference to work in Genesis 3:23 underscores once again the centrality of work in human life. God made us to work in the world. Even though sin complicates this assignment, it is still our first, basic assignment as human beings. Now, the challenge for us is to work in a world that is broken. I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow. For now, I’d encourage you to think about how the brokenness of this world affects your work.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How does the brokenness of this world affect your work? In what ways does Genesis 3 play out in your workplace? your leadership? your family? your community?
Gracious God, this passage from Genesis is a sad one, to be sure. Because of sin, you cast the first humans out of Eden, and we have lived outside of the garden ever since. We experience our separation from the garden in all parts of life, including our work. Thus, we are reminded of not just the sin of humanity, but also our own sin. We contribute to the brokenness of the world. Our own sinful desires and choices infect our work. Forgive us, Lord.
By your grace in Christ, may we begin to discover life as you intended it to be, including work as you intended it to be. May our work honor you and bear fruit for your kingdom. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.