Does your work really matter? In Genesis 2 we witness the Creator God inviting Adam and Eve to create alongside Him. God recognizes “there was no man to work the ground” (Genesis 2:5), so He creates Adam, who has all of Eden at his disposal. In Genesis 2:15 God “put [Adam] into the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
What is clear from the very beginning is that work is not a curse but rather a good purpose through which humanity lives out a life of obedient worship to God. While work, service, and worship do not share the same connotation in modern English, the same word—avodah—is frequently used for each of these concepts in the Hebrew Scripture. “Work” and “worship” are two translations of the same word (Genesis 2:15). Work and worship are not separate activities, but are seamlessly integrated. Not only that, but this relationship between work and worship is understood in the context of genuine liberation, as opposed to menial slavery.
God instructs Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let my people go, that they may worship (avodah) me’” (Exodus 8:1). Worshipping and serving the Lord is only possible for one who has been freed from bondage. There is no question about whether or not individuals will worship, but rather to whom is that worship directed. This will either be a form of idolatry, expressed by chasing after false gods and in self-deification, or an authentic expression of rightly-ordered devotion to the Creator of all things. As individuals fashioned for lifelong adoration of and relationship with God, we image bearers find the end for which we have been created by worshipping Him with every area of our lives. All human work was originally intended to be a sacred calling.
Genesis 2:15 is the first picture we see of humans working and cultivating the creation – agriculture (or plant life). The word culture finds its origin in the word cultivate. Adam’s culture-shaping work is to take the raw materials of Eden and cultivate them into something greater.
Prior to the command in verse 15, we read this concerning the state of creation in Genesis 2:5: “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and small plant of 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.” This reveals a creation that is yet to be developed and formed. This would be the calling and responsibility of humanity. Human work and the cultivation of creation was the means by which nature would fully bring glory to God.
Though Scripture clearly paints a picture of God’s people faithfully engaging culture, the present-day Church has created a very unhealthy, unnatural divide between the sacred and the secular. This has resulted in a major disconnect between the personal beliefs of a Christian and their daily routines in public life. For instance, our congregations are full of people who think work is only meaningful and redemptive when it involves volunteering at church or serving a local non-profit.
God is not only concerned with the spiritual realm, but He is also concerned with the physical realm. In the beginning you see God creating a physical kingdom in the garden, and at the end you see God restoring the earth, not burning it up in flames in order to destroy it. He is expanding this physical kingdom now through His Church and will perfect it at the end of history in the New Heaven and Earth. When the people of God understand how the story ends, it informs how to live in the present.
God has given us tremendous resources to be witnesses for Him in a secular age. We have a rich array of “places”—family, education, sports, entertainment, art, science, politics, workplace—where we can live out our witness. Even though the world around us is increasingly secular, the mission God has given us is pervasively Christian. There is not a “secular” aspect of our lives. Every aspect is a divinely-given opportunity to be a preview of God’s coming Kingdom.
Therefore, all work matters because it all matters to God. This is incredibly good news for the Church today. Regardless of your vocation, you have a sacred calling. Dear Christian, your work is worship!
 Tom Nelson, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 26.
 Gene Veith, God at Work (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), 19.
 Bruce Ashford, Every Square Inch (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 26.
 C.F. Keil, The Pentateuch, Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2001), 52.