By: Roger Patterson
When you think about the world that existed before sin brought the corruption that we experience today, you probably envision Adam and Eve strolling along the pleasant river of Eden, looking out over a view of a beautiful meadow, or enjoying the company of a curious little monkey as they share a cluster of fruit with it.
But do you ever think of all of the work that Adam and Eve engaged in? Probably not. That is likely because when we think about work we think of the difficulty and struggle we endure to provide food for our families. Whether struggling to carve a row in the sunbaked earth to grow wheat for bread or fighting against an unrealistic deadline to finish a presentation to earn a paycheck, work is trying and tiring.
Imitating the Creator
Before the Fall—Adam’s rebellion against God—there was work to be done. When God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in a garden that He had planted for them. If you have ever experienced the deep satisfaction that comes from seeing a seed you planted growing into a plump green pepper or pulling that aromatic creation out of the oven, you have seen the goodness in work. And that is a reflection of what happened before the Fall. God directed Adam to “tend and keep” the garden, a task he likely shared with Eve. God had created Adam and Eve in His own image to represent Him on the Earth.
God had worked in creating the universe and everything on Earth over six days (Genesis 1:1–29; Exodus 20:11) and continues to uphold the world by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:1–4). Likewise, Adam was given the task of working the garden as God’s representative on the Earth (Genesis 2:15). As a couple, Adam and Eve were to “fill the Earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). To obey this command would require them to work at cultivating the plants and caring for the animals. And God called all of this “very good” at the close of Genesis 1. Not only was the creation very good, but the activities God directed His creatures to engage in were very good—including work.
In effect, God had worked to create for mankind a harmonious world in which they could obtain their need for food by caring for a garden in such a way that it would produce the fruits and herbs to sustain them. Their work was given by God and performed with thanksgiving for the good gifts their Creator had given them.
But there was a drastic change.
After the Rebellion
After Adam chose to rebel, eating of the one fruit God had forbidden, God punished Adam and cursed the ground. Rather than a lush garden where work was joyful and worshipful in a perfect world, toil and sweat would be necessary to bring forth bread from the earth. For the first time, thorns and thistles would grow, struggling for the space and nutrients with the plants grown for food. Adam would be competing against these thieves as he sought to provide sustenance for his family until the day he died.
To paraphrase, having originally told Adam “Here is a garden I have planted for you,” God now said, “Plant your own garden, you ungrateful rebel!”