Work – God’s Gift of Responsibility
We’re looking at work ‘in the beginning’ and have seen that there are two Hebrew words in Genesis 2 which translate as work. Last time we looked at Melaka (Genesis 2:2-3) and saw how this refers back to the fantastic and complex nature of God’s creativity in Genesis 1, and we reflected on how this creativity (in lesser form) is innately borne by all humans made in His image!
The second word for work, Avoda, comes in Genesis 2:5 and 2:15.
Avoda can be translated in several different ways, most commonly as service, then worship and then work. It also covers more occasional meanings including slavery, bondservant, toil etc.
The common thread between these meanings is that Avoda usually describes activity which is done by one person for the benefit of another. Think about it: in our communities we serve to benefit others; in church we worship to bless (benefit) God; even slavery is an activity carried out by one person for the benefit of another.
Adam is not a slave; he has free will to completely ignore the Lord God when he and Eve fall to sin’s temptation. So, when he is taken to the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15), he has the freedom to work or not to work.
In giving Adam this Avoda opportunity, the Lord God involves him directly in the ongoing care of creation - both stewardship for the planet and also care for other humans. The gift of responsibility under God.
If the work of Adam in Eden is freely done for the Lord God and to benefit Creation/Society how does that speak to us in today’s post-Eden, post-agrarian, sin-wounded societies and workplaces?
Of course there’s an obvious immediate correlation; we have more than ever a responsibility for God’s good creation that cannot be ignored. There is more opportunity, for each of us, no matter what our daily occupation, to exercise God-given responsibility: to consider the impact of our actions and words on those around us; to weigh the ethical impact of our consumer habits; to encourage our businesses and professions to act for the common good.
Writing Colossians 3:24, Paul appropriates the language of Eden and instructs slaves that no matter what they physically do or who they do it for, it is in fact the Lord Christ whom they serve. Over Advent it’s a great opportunity to reflect on God's gift of work and to ask "If I’m not serving Jesus through my work, then who exactly am I serving?"