We spent part one and two doing some ground clearing. We thought about the ideas we have about work and we began to think about what work was like in “Bible times”.
Now we are ready to look at some scripture passages. We’ll begin at the beginning: Genesis.
It can be easy, when talking about the early chapters in Genesis, to get sidetracked with questions. Were Adam and Eve were real people ? Did Eden really exist and if so where was it? Is this sacred mythic story or historically accurate? Those sorts of discussions are worthwhile discussion to have, but that’s not our task here. In this study, set aside the “did it happen” questions and focus on the “what does it mean” questions.
Tilling and Toiling
Read Genesis 2:4- 3:24.
These two chapters are full of important and interesting things to think about. We are going to focus on what they have to say about work.
In chapter 2, how do people survive?
What is the man’s role in the garden?
What is the man’s relationship with the animals and birds? (It may help to know that in the ancient near east, to name something or someone meant you had particular insight in the true nature of the person you named and you had some degree of power or authority with respect to them.)
What does Genesis 2 suggest that God’s intentions for human life in the world were? (You can read Genesis 1:26-2:3 also to supplement your discussion.)
Next read Genesis 3:14-24. What does this text tell us about work? How has humankind’s relationship changed with animals and with the earth?
Is “tilling” different from “toil”? Did the actions, the physical tasks that humans performed change or did our relationship with, our way of understanding the tasks change?
When we consider both these texts, what do they have to say about how we ought to approach work? Do Genesis 2 and 3 have anything to tell us about our expectations about work and our feelings and attitudes toward work?
Some Bible scholars note that these Genesis passages tell us that God is a God who works. Have you thought about God in that way before? Does the idea that God works, change our understanding of work? Does it change the value of work?
How is the work of humans the same or different from the work of God?
Here are some “big picture” items that emerge from considering these texts.
The first concept is that “work” was part of the original plan for humans. Work isn’t punishment. Humans were created to do things on earth. We were placed in the garden to care for it. Eden didn’t simple exist for us, we also existed for Eden. Work is then outwardly directed, toward the world and not primarily about us feeling good or happy about what we’re doing.
The second concept is that the relationship between humans and work changed after the fall. In a world that is still waiting for redemption, even the best job has times when it stops being a joy and is toil. Perhaps our search for our “dream job” is unrealistic or needs some redefinition.
Third big idea is that God works. We often think of God as one who creates and who acts, but it is not common for us to think of God as working. As creatures created in God’s image, we work with and for God.
I’d like to know, what do you think?
Cross posted at Conversation in Faith