Now that the Garden of Eden, the house that God has turned into a home where he will dwell with man, has food and is well watered, God brings man and welcomes him to his new home where they will live together. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” When we think of paradise we often think of a perfect retirement village! Anyway, that’s the way I sometimes think of it. Everything is done for you. You have leisure and no expectations on you and no responsibility whatsoever. But that’s not what we read in this verse. Adam is to “work and keep” the garden. Ryle says, “Notice, that the garden requires to be dressed and kept; it is not a place of spontaneous perfection. Man in the garden is to work, to take trouble, to practise forethought, to exercise solicitude and sympathy for the objects of his toil. “Paradise” is not a place for indolence and self-indulgence.”[1]

Back in Genesis 2:5, we learned that there was “no man to till the ground.” It seems as if work was not something that entered into the world because of man’s sin. It was something that God had gifted man with from the very beginning. After the fall it became harder and less productive with much frustration and some failure as the thorns and thistles grew up in place of cultivated crops. Work in and of itself is a good thing. Leisure, as I’ve discovered after retirement is not such a good thing. It’s OK for a little while, but sooner or later you need to feel like you’re contributing something. Editors of the commentary by ancient writers attributes the following to Augustine of Hippo sometime in the 4th century: “Is it really possible that the Lord wanted the first man to till the ground? Or is it plausible that he condemned him to labor before sin? We would certainly think so unless we considered those who till the ground with so much delight that it is a great punishment for them to be called off to any other thing. Whatever joy working the soil has had, therefore, the delight was even greater when no disaster had happened, either in the earth or in the heaven.”[2]

After each day of creation in chapter 1, God looked back at his work and said it is good. Then after creating man, he said it was “very good.” Then we read that on the seventh day God rested from all the “work” that he did. It’s not that God got tired, it’s simply that his work was done and he looked back it at and declared it good. He finished it all. I’ve used my garage as an illustration of how it feels good to finish work. In the spring time, I’ll take my leaf blower and get rid of all the leaves and cob webs that have collected in my garage over the year. I’ll even pull the house out to clean up the mud that our cars have drug into our garage in the winter along with the salt the city puts down on the streets. When I finish, it feels good! I stop and look back and think, “what a nice job I did and how nice it is to have a clean garage.” In creating us in his own image, God shared this blessing of work. It’s only because of our rebellion to God at the fall that work became “work” so to speak. But when Jesus hung on the cross he said it is “finished.” The work that the father had given him was done, once and for all and he could then commend his spirit to the Father. One day, work will no longer be “work.” God will set up his kingdom on earth which will be built by the finished work of Jesus. He will say to all those who did the “work” God called us to, believing in whom he has sent, Jesus! Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome home! And work for us will again be the joy of our days! That’s one thing we’ll find in paradise.

[1] Ryle, Herbert E. 1921. The Book of Genesis in the Revised Version with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Severian of Gabala and Bede the Venerable. 2010. Commentaries on Genesis 1–3: Homilies on Creation and Fall and Commentary on Genesis: Book I. Edited by Michael Glerup, Thomas C. Oden, and Gerald L. Bray. Translated by Robert C. Hill and Carmen S. Hardin. Ancient Christian Texts. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press.