Was Mankind Created to do Work?
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
In our modern work-a-day world, we may be tempted to wonder what things would have been like in Eden. Did Adam and Eve have a life of luxury, simply wandering from tree to herb to tree again, selecting their daily food? Was everything effortlessly provided for them?
Conversely, we might wonder, will there ever be a time when our work will be through? In heaven, will we have nothing to do but float around on clouds and play our harps?
Whatever may be the situation in heaven, or however things may have been in the original creation, the fact remains that most of us have to work hard now, and we need to have a Biblical perspective on work.
Actually, both the Old and New Testaments have quite a bit to say about work. For example, "Of any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10), and Work with your own hands, as we commanded you; "That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without (i.e. non-believers), and that ye may have lack of nothing" (I Thessalonians 4:11,12). These and numerous other passages, particularly in the Book of Proverbs, show conclusively that God expects us to work, and in many cases, work hard. "The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing" (Proverbs 20:4).
As is almost always true for Biblical teachings, the foundation for our work ethic comes from Genesis. There we read that to a considerable degree, our present difficulty in work comes as a result of the curse. Due to his sin, God said to Adam, "cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. . . In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Genesis 3:17-19). Things were completely changed.
But there is more to it than that. Evidently work itself is not bad, for Adam was told to work even before he sinned. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to 'dress it and to keep it' (Genesis 2:15). God knew that idleness was not good for mankind, so He assigned to Adam the responsibility of "dressing" the garden, perhaps to keep the plants from overrunning everything. This was not difficult work, but enjoyable, and perhaps involved artistic expression. Likewise, he was to" keep" it, or, literally," guard it." God has placed us as stewards over His creation, and we must take diligent care of it.
Furthermore, mankind was told to "subdue" the earth and have "dominion" over the animals. No support is given here for spoiling the environment or hunting animals to extinction, but, rather, a command to study the earth and its systems and living occupants, and to manage it all properly for our proper use, in His stead, and to His glory. Much "work" remains to be done!
Even in heaven, we will continue to work, when" There shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him" (Revelation 22:3). God, the Creator, has designed us to work.
*Dr. John Morris is the President of ICR.