Why are we here? Where did we come from? What is our purpose on earth?

One of the most basic things that could be said about mankind is that we were made to oversee and tend the earth. God did not go to craigslist or monster.com to find a qualified worker keep his creation. Instead, he made the perfect employee. The Genesis account gives us an understanding of the beginnings of all things. In Genesis 1, we learn that God decided to create us in his image. In Genesis 2, we learn why and how he created us. This post will focus on the why. Next post will focus on the how.

Why Did God Create Us?

Genesis 2:5-6 says:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up–for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground–

These two verses give us a flashback to chapter 1–a flashback that fills in more information. God created plants and animals in such a way that they need an overseer and caregiver. As he is calling animals and plants to come into existence, God has in his mind to create mankind on day six to be that caregiver.

The Genesis 1 account of the creation of man says that, after God blessed them, he said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 2 flashbacks with a simple statement, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Mankind is not at the top of the food chain, but rather, mankind oversees the food chain. We are the dominate species on earth–not because of the survival of the fittest–because God made us to be the dominate species on earth. We were created with a unique ability to rationalize, name animals, plan and tend the garden, and generally maintain the order and beauty of this planet.

However, many of us are not called to be farmers or zoo-keepers. What does this mean for our jobs? How hard should we work? How should we use our days off and vacation time? What practical teaching does the creation account give us?

  1. Both work and rest are good gifts from God that we were intended to enjoy.
    • Work is good (Genesis 2:15) and rest is good (Genesis 2:1-3).
    • Workaholism is bad and laziness is bad.
    • Work is not a necessary evil and rest is not a necessary evil.
  2. The nature of work demands that we bring order and beauty to our corner of this earth. Whether our corner of this earth is accounting, or selling fridges, or house-momming, or delivering packages, we should “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” We should do things well, bring order and beauty, be honest and trustworthy, and be the absolute best that we can be.
  3. Our designed purpose is work, not rest. The “Everybody’s-working-for-the-weekend” and “This-job-is-a-paycheck” attitudes are not spiritual. Our job, our house chores, and our church service should not only be a means to an end, but should also be an end in themselves. Jobs do make us money so that we can survive, but they should also be our little corner of creation that we oversee and care for.
  4. Work is difficult to remind us of the curse. Work existed before sin, but it was cursed because of sin. God said to Adam after he sinned, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” Rather than bemoaning your job difficulties, bemoan sin that curses work and makes it hard; thank God that Christ has saved us from sin!
  5. Both work and rest teach things about God.
    • Work reminds us how the Creator made this world, but rest also reminds us of Creator’s rest (though he didn’t need to) on the seventh after he created the world.
    • Work helps us to fulfill a divinely-given purpose, but rest also reminds us of our human limitations.
    • Work reminds us that only Christ’s works were productive enough to bring us back to God, but rest shows us what trust in Christ’s works looks like.
  6. This recent post has more helpful advice on work and rest.

The Gospel, Work, and Rest

Laziness is selfishness. Workaholism is pride. I am filled with selfishness and pride. I often forget about my Creator. These sins are insults against God. That independent selfishness indicts me with crimes against my Creator–crimes for which a wrathful God will punish me.

The Good News of the gospel is that, although I am proud and selfish, I do not have to be enslaved to those sins or to be punished for those sins. Jesus Christ received my punishment–the death of an independent, selfish, proud man. By believing in Christ, I can be forgiven and freed to submit under God’s purpose for my life. Through this forgiveness, my relationship with God expands from a Creator-creation relationship to a Father-son relationship.

Rather than finding my identity and joy in productivity or success (work), I can find my identity and joy in Christ’s work on my behalf. Rather than finding all my pleasure and purpose in my hobbies (rest), I can find my pleasure and purpose in God’s will for my life.  If my identity, purpose, pleasure, and joy are found in Jesus Christ, then I can be free to work hard and rest well without either becoming a life-dominating sin.

Practical Questions to Examine Your Heart

  • How have I been slacking in my work (at home, at church, or at my job) lately?
  • How can I bring more order and beauty to my work?
  • Am I resting well? Am I taking regular time off to refresh my body and soul?
  • What things can I do for rest that will be refreshing, rather than just distracting?
  • How can I more intentionally meditate on gospel truths through my work and rest habits?