Women & Work

Work is Commissioned

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So God created man
in his own image;
he created him in the image of God;
he created them male and female.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”Genesis 1:26-28

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.Genesis 2:15

What would you do in paradise? Perhaps enjoy an ocean breeze or take in stunning views of a majestic mountain range, all with feet propped up and favorite drink in hand? In your imagination, did work enter the picture?

The garden of Eden God created in the beginning was essentially paradise on earth. But did you know that work existed there before Adam and Eve ate that forbidden fruit in Genesis 3? 

You see, paradise wasn’t just a place of lounging and relaxation as we tend to think. While the first humans enjoyed each other’s company, savored the garden’s delicious fruit, and walked with God in the cool of the day, they also worked. On this side of the fall, it’s hard to imagine work in paradise, but that was exactly God’s good plan from the very beginning.

After completing His work of creation, including the creation of the first man and woman, God gave Adam and Eve an assignment, often referred to as the Creation Mandate. They were not only to “work the garden and keep it” (Gen 2:15), but were also given the broader command in Genesis 1:28 to populate and subdue the earth, and have dominion over every other living creature. 

What was involved with subduing the earth? Together, as co-laborers in the garden, Adam and Eve were commissioned to develop or bring the earth under control into a working, livable society. They were called to build and cultivate a thriving place to live. A place filled with all the systems, processes, and both physical and immaterial frameworks that make for a well-run, growing population to flourish. They were called to bring order into the world God made. 

This wasn’t just man’s work, either. Eve not only had the privilege of becoming the mother of all the living, as her name suggests, but her contribution to the work of cultivating society was indispensable. Adam simply couldn’t accomplish this alone. He truly needed the unique help of a woman. 

Elements of what began with Adam and Eve continue with us today and are expanded in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Our everyday, ordinary labor continues to help build and shape society. Both men’s and women’s work is valuable and necessary, from the most mundane tasks to the most innovative and extraordinary. Businessmen, truck drivers, farmers, chefs, mothers, artists, and so many more each find their purpose within the Creation Mandate. Just like Adam and Eve were commissioned in the garden, so we are called to labor and help to continue to bring order to chaos and contribute to the flourishing of God’s world. 

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared on YouVersion.com as a devotional in the "Work Redeemed: A Theology of Work from the Story of the Bible" from Women & Work.

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