21 - God Centered View of Work
A God-Centered View of Work: What to Do on Monday ~ Genesis 3:21-24
Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on December 2, 2007
Genesis 3:21-24 (NASB95)
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
Last week we began to look at the provision God made for sinful man in verse 21, a gracious act in providing them sufficient coverings and garments as a gift to replace their insufficient man-made fig-leaf undergarments. I want to come back to that image and develop it a little further in a moment, but for now notice that He provides for and protects them before sending them out into the world. God’s act of grace precedes His act of expelling them, and even though He declares in verse 22 that man must not live forever in his sinful flesh, this passage also has a wonderful picture of salvation and foundation of gospel truth for believers then and now
In verse 22 God apparently speaks within the Trinity using the plural “us” – “man has become like one of Us” – not in every sense but in the sense of knowing good and evil. Ironically, Satan’s promise came partially true but not with the results man desired.
Our text says that God would not allow man to take from the tree of life so God drives them out of the garden. Was this a real tree actually giving life? Apparently, but by chapter 6 the whole land of Eden was destroyed by a worldwide flood so you won’t be able to find it today. For however long the garden was around there were cherubim and rotating flaming swords like divine light sabers keeping man out from the intimate presence of the Lord in His garden.
If your view of angels is based on popular cards or cartoons or figurines, you might think angels are cute cuddly chubby babies with harps or bows and arrows. But in scripture they are warriors of deadly force engaged in spiritual warfare. A single angel can kill thousands of men, as the O.T. records. These flaming swords portray the fact that there is no returning to Eden and the pre-fall world in this life, this is a permanent consequence of sin. God doesn’t need protection - the angels are protecting man from the presence of a God whose holiness is lethal to sinful man.
The original readers of Genesis may have also noticed a parallel here with the ark of the covenant where God’s Shekinah glory dwelt. The ark was similarly protected from the people and even had sculpted golden cherubim on the top of it. The tabernacle and temple curtains for the Holy of Holies also had embroidered cherubim. In a similar way, these represented guardian angels – guardians and protectors of God’s glory from sinful man.
To come close and touch the ark meant death (Uzzah learned this the hard way in 2 Samuel 6). Even the high priest had to be on a rope with bells so they could hear him and pull him out if he died for his irreverence or sin. These cherubim in Genesis 3 similarly represent the consequences of sin in paradise lost.
Verse 23 says man was sent out “to cultivate the ground from which he was taken” – other translations have “to work the ground.” That word “work” is a key word in this section.
Verses 17-19 primarily are about man’s work; his labor in relation to sin. In verse 24, God puts angels to work here on earth to keep man out of Eden. In verse 21 we also see God’s work, His first work since day six. This theme of work is where we want to turn our attention today. Having a God-driven understanding of work was important not only for O.T. Israelites, this is an important subject for every man, woman, and child in this room today.
Definition: When I use the word “work,” many of you might be thinking only of occupations, or some job you have, something you do that you get paid for. But I want to use the word in the biblical sense which is much broader, including the work of stay-at-home moms, chores or tasks done by children, really any labor or serving any do anywhere. According to Webster (Collegiate 10th Edition), the 1st meaning of the English noun work refers to ‘activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something:
a : sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result
b : the labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood [Phil’s note: this is just one aspect of the word]
c : a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity’
For everyone in this room, there are relevant truths and applications from Genesis 3 in whatever work we do everyday (outside the home or inside or in-between). My prayer this morning is that this message would extend beyond this Sunday and would have an effect on what you do on Monday. These principles apply to both weekends and weekdays – we don’t want to divorce work and worship, or doctrine and duty, or belief and behavior, or how you live today versus how you live tomorrow. Being truly God-centered in your theology impacts what happens on Monday.
Adult Americans typically spend a majority of their waking hours in work or work-related activities. Sadly for Christians, there tends to be a big dichotomy between biblical truth and biblical application, and a particular lack in truly God-centered Bible-driven views of life and work. Part of the blame lies with Christians who uncritically imbibe worldly ways of thinking about work, but part of the blame also falls on us who teach the scripture where we have failed to declare what God has to say on this subject
One organization called Career Impact Ministries reportedly polled 2,000 professing Christians who regularly attend a church, asking the question, “Have you ever in your life heard a sermon, read a book, listened to a tape, or been to a seminar that applied biblical principles to everyday work issues?” More than 90 percent of those who responded said no. The article goes on to ask:
“Is there a connection between Sunday and Monday?” The Reformers would have answered this question, “Yes!” They differed from Rome by doing away with the secular/ religious dichotomy. In teaching that every believer is a full-time priest in the service of God, the Reformers emphasized that “the layman has a calling in Christ no less than the minister, and the daily labor of both, performed as consecrated sacrifice, is equally accepted as spiritual service.” In our day, however, by (largely) neglecting our Reformation and Puritan heritage on this issue, the evangelical church has implied by default that the answer is “No, there is little connection between Sunday and Monday.” Some have sought to “sanctify” the workweek by exhorting Christians to give verbal testimony in their places of work. While testifying at work of Jesus Christ may be a very worthwhile endeavor, it is not what “sanctifies” the Christian’s workweek. The Bible gives a much fuller meaning to work than is typically understood by modern evangelicals.
Principles of A God-Centered View of Work
You can buy bestselling “Christian” books on how to Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Everyday or how to have Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential – but when the word “you” is in the title (in the second book “Best Life” is lowercase and “YOUR” is in all caps!) and you are the focus and it’s about you and how you can get ahead or how you can get promoted or how God can help you to succeed in your workplace and meet your needs and your purpose, etc. – that is utterly bankrupt. We don’t want to slap a few Christian slogans and verses onto our self-fulfillment and self-improvement and self-help – we need GOD to dominate and drive it all. We need a GOD-centered understanding of life and work.
When I speak of being God-centered, it’s in contrast to being self-centered or man-centered where almost all of our world is focused and too much of the church is focused. Having a high view of God means God is absolutely sovereign and supreme over all and that His glory is the end and aim of everything He does and everything we do. It’s all about Him, it’s not about us – that’s easy to say but on Monday to Friday are you working and living as a man-pleaser, man-centered, self-centered, self-seeking, after self-indulgence?
What does being God-centered have to do with our everyday work?
1 Timothy 6:1 (NASB95)
1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.
Ephesians 3:20-4:1 (NASB95)
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
And one of his applications later was:
Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;
6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,
8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Romans 11:36 (NASB95)
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Do “all things” include our work? Yes!
I can’t think of a better outline for a God-Centered View of Work:
1. Work is From Him
2. Work is Through Him
3. Work is to Him
1. WORK IS FROM GOD
We’re not going to start with us, we’re going to start with God.
The NKJV has the words “of him” – same idea: God is the source of work and the model of work. Work is from God. He’s a worker.
The first chapter of the Bible reveals a God who works, who builds, who directs, who gives orders, who is creative, who plans and designs and discusses amongst the other persons in the Godhead, who even stoops to get involved in breathing into man of the dust the breath of life through His nostrils. God creates man in His own image and delegates work to man to reflect God’s image
Work is of God, it’s from God – work is not evil, it is good. So many people have the wrong idea that work is bad, it’s a curse, a necessary evil I must endure to fund my lifestyle. But work is inherently a good thing because God Himself works, so let’s look at His work in this text before we consider ours.
Gen. 3:21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
MADE - Note: Same Hebrew word was used earlier of making the skies, the stars, the trees bearing fruit, making the animals, making man, and creation as a whole (Gen 1:7, 11-12, 16, 25, 26, 31)
Genesis 2:2-3 (NASB95)
2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
God’s work of making and creating was done, but it wasn’t too long before He had to go back to work, this time a different work.
GARMENTS – This is the word for tunic, a long shirtlike garment, usually of linen (Gen 37:3 [Joseph’s multicolored tunic] -TWOT, 459), an everyday garment that was typically a long covering with long skirts and sleeves (BDB, 509), it can be translated as dress or coat or robe. It would cover at least down to the knees (Gesenius Lexicon, 420), virtually whole body garments.
Notably, it was also used of the tunics priests would wear.
SKIN – This is the word used for animal skins later in this book (Torah – Ex 29:14, Lev 4:11, 8:17, Numbers 19:5) as well as of sacrificial animals (Lev 7:8, 9:11, 16:27). It refers to the hide of animals (44 times), always—except Job 40:31—after skinning (BDB, 736). This word is also related to the priestly duties.
*Don’t miss the obvious connotation: This priestly language used by Moses to his readers clearly hints of God Himself doing the work of a priest here. In order to get skins of an animal, the animal would have to be slain. The Lord Himself had to kill an innocent animal – a perfect animal - and form them clothing for covering.
Marcus Dods writes that Adam and Eve ‘had to learn that sin could be covered not by a bunch of leaves … but only by pain and blood … It was made apparent that sin was a real and deep evil, and that by no easy and cheap process could the sinner be restored. The same lesson has been written on millions of consciences since. Men have found that their sin reaches beyond their own life and person, that it inflicts injury and involves disturbance and distress, that it changes utterly our relation to life and to God, and that we cannot rise above its consequences save by the intervention of God Himself, by an intervention which tells us of the sorrow He suffers on our account. For the chief point is that it is God who relieves man’s shame’
The original readers of Genesis were familiar with Leviticus 17:11 “it is blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”
God demanded death for sin, sin that very day. Adam and Eve deserved to be the first physical deaths, but instead God graciously makes two animals die, making a graphic statement to them of a principle that the original readers of Genesis knew well – the need for a substitute, an innocent in exchange for the guilty. This would have been a very memorable lesson for original man and woman.
CLOTHED – This word is also associated with priests and the temple, as it’s often used by Moses of times when he would put priestly garments onto the priests before they could serve in God’s presence or perform certain tasks (Exodus 29:8; 40:14; Lev 8:13, etc.).
The language of this verse was temple language to the original audience. We aren’t told how much Adam and Eve understood this picture but Moses knew the principle well as he wrote things like “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” God cannot just overlook sin. Ultimately, even the blood of bulls and goats did not truly take away sin, either. The sacrificial system was a shadow or picture of substitution and grace, a type of Christ. The symbols Moses wrote about pointed to the Messiah and His ultimate sacrifice, the only satisfaction and substitution that could truly do away with sin for believers.
Kent Hughes ties it all together this way:
‘God’action here in primeval history was a gracious foreshadowing of his ultimate sovereign provision for sin. Certainly the first couple would have understood this only in faint principle. But the foundation was mightily laid. Later no Levitical priest could read this passage without making the connection with atonement because the skins of the animals slain in sacrifice were given to the priests for their use (cf. Leviticus 7:8)’
[In fact all early readers of the Torah would recognize those words “garment” and “skins” and “clothed” as prominently used as part of the priestly sacrificial system and law instructions.]
‘God’s provision of garments for Adam and Eve, which covered them fully, parallel the full garments required of the priests who served in the tabernacle. Kenneth Matthews says: “Since the garden narrative shares in tabernacle imagery, it is not surprising that allusion to animal sacrifice is found in the garden too. Through an oblique reference to animal sacrifice, the garden narrative paints a theological portrait familiar to the recipients of the Sinai revelation who honored the tabernacle as the meeting place with God.” In the tabernacle and temple, access to God’s presence came only by the shedding of blood and the mediation of a priest (cf., e.g., Leviticus 16).
As we know, this tabernacle/temple system point to Jesus Christ. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [literally, “tabernacled”] among us.” Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of the tabernacle and the temple. In the very next chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). Jesus saw his own body as the temple, and the resurrection as proving his authority (v. 22). Finally Revelation 21:22 tells us that God himself is the temple (cf. 21:3).
When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom (cf. Matthew 27:51). Access into the presence of God no longer required sacrifice or a priest or a temple – because Jesus was at once the sacrifice, the priest, and the temple.’
When you think of Christmas this year, think beyond a baby born in a manger – think of what Genesis 3 cries out for. The curse we saw last week was pain, sorrow, conflict, difficult work, sweat and tears, thorns, and death. In each and every part of the curse and judgment given in this chapter on man and woman, the God-Man Christ Jesus is the parallel and provision of remedy to every detail:
- Was there pain assigned to man? Christ took upon Himself the greatest pain imaginable for sinners
- Did women now have to experience great agony when a child is born? God went through great agony so that we could be born again as His elect children.
- Was subjection a part of the judgment? Christ Himself was subject to the law.
- Was loving rule and headship in God’s words to the woman here? Christ Himself is the example of how loving headship should function, sacrificially leading and giving up of self for the bride he loves.
- Was work much more difficult now? Christ accomplished the most difficult work ever, the greatest work since creation, the work of reconciliation and redemption.
- Was death to fall upon everyone? Jesus died so that we might live.
- Did sin bring sorrow and suffering? Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering” (Isa 53)
- Did sin bring conflict? Jesus endured even greater conflict of sinners against him for our salvation (Heb. 12:3).
- Did thorns come as a result of sin? Jesus was crowned with thorns (John 19:2).
- Did sin bring sweat? Jesus in Gethsemane sweat like drops of blood (Luke 22:44)
- Was there a curse placed on all creation? Christ became a curse for us on the cross.
‘Therefore, because He bore all the curse Himself for us, once again the dwelling of God shall someday be with men and “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
“And there shall be no more curse …” (Revelation 22:3). Although the complete removal of the curse awaits the return of Christ … we can already appropriate the results of this deliverance by faith. We can be in sorrow, “yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10); we can endure the “thorn in the flesh” with His sufficient grace and perfecting strength (2 Cor 12:7-9). Though our labor ceases not “night and day with tears,” yet there is rest in Him (Acts 20:31; Matthew 11:28); and though “made conformable unto his death,” we know the “power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).’
What an amazing work this was – the work of redemption by our Savior for His children! How can you be one of his children? By faith, not any works we do. Salvation’s work is of God, all of God.
It is not only this work that is of God and from God as a gift, man’s work itself is also a gift from God.
Ecclesiastes tells us:
2:24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.
3:13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.
5:19 Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.
5:20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.
So work is of God / from God, now secondly,
2. WORK IS THROUGH GOD
In Genesis 3:23, God sends Adam out to work. It is not just through God’s example that we work, it is through God’s Word, through God’s Commandment.
God’s Word says God made us in His image and then put man to work, and one of the ways we resemble God is in our work. We are to be like God as workers, reflecting His glory and character and example in our world and in our workplace.
Carl Henry has said: ‘As God’s fellow worker [man] is to reflect God’s creative ability on Monday in the factory no less than on Sunday when commemorating the day of rest and worship.’
God commands man to work, even in the Ten Commandments He says “six days you shall labor and do all your work …” God is the pattern for our work as well as our rest, and both are important.
But notice that work came before sin, not just for God but for man. It wasn’t caused by sin, and work is not a judgment because of sin.
Work is not the curse. If you’ll notice in verse 17, God says to Adam “cursed is the ground” and he says that cultivation and farming will not be as easy anymore – what used to be just work will now be hard work. But just like the other things affected by sin – children and marriage – work is affected by sin but is in and of itself a good thing, a blessing, a gift from God. Work is not a curse; it came before the curse (Read 2:15, 2:4, 1:26, 28). Work was a part of the original perfect state and it will even be a part of the future perfect state
Revelation 22:1-5 (NASB95)
1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb,
2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;
4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.
5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
We’re not going to be sitting around on clouds playing harps and doing nothing, we will most importantly be worshipping God and serving Him. And also man was created to reign over this earth. Redeemed humanity in eternity will truly fulfill this mandate from Genesis and in the new heavens and earth will reign forever and ever and will serve God as we glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression that someone is “so heavenly minded that he’s of no earthly good” but the Bible does call us to set our minds on things above, not on things below. I think our problem is we are so worldly and earthly-minded that we are of little heavenly good. We are consumed with our comfort and leisure and materialism. But if we are truly heavenly-minded and God-centered we will be of maximum earthly good in our work.
Sinclair Ferguson tells the story of an older man in England a number of years ago who was observing a younger man and how he conducted himself in his life and work, and was very impressed with his attitude and how he carried himself. He had never spoken with him, but when he had an opportunity, he asked him, “Young man, what is the chief end of man?’
To which the young fellow replied, “Sir, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
The old man smiled and replied, “Ah, I suspected you were a Westminster Confession type of guy.” (This is the confession from which that famous first line is found)
Would anyone suspect that about you? Based on how you work and live, your contentment, your character, your commitment – is it obvious that you enjoy God and do everything for him, not for man or self. Those of you in the workplace, if I were to go and talk to each one of your bosses, would they say that one of the things you are known for is having a cheery disposition, really putting yourself into everything wholeheartedly, as if you have a higher standard? Has anyone ever asked you for the reason for the hope that is within you because of your testimony and conduct at work? Is there an obvious difference between you and unbelievers?
Is your heart’s desire to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in serving Him through all eternity? We can begin to do that in the here and now through God in our work, that’s our second point.
Not only is work from God and through God, but lastly
3. OUR WORK IS TO GOD
From Him and through Him and to Him are all things, and “all things” include our work.
It was to God that Adam was originally oriented, and everything he did was unto God and in chapter 3 he is accountable to God. Adam’s work was done in the perfect presence of God, and he carried out his work in communion with God throughout the day. He enjoyed fellowship with Him as the Lord walked through the garden in the cool of the day in some form. Everything was from God and to God, and for God and His glory. That’s not just true of work that is “spiritual” or “religious” in the eyes of our world, that was true of Adam working in the garden, cultivating plants, working with his hands, physical work as well as the mental work of naming all the animals in chapter 2. Whatever you will be doing on Monday is also to be “to God” as much or more than my job.
We are to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works, and glorify our Heavenly Father, which must be our ultimate motivation. As Paul said in 1 Timothy 6, which we read earlier, we are to honor our earthly masters or employers so that ultimately the name of God will be honored rather than dishonored by our conduct at work.
The way you honor the boss or company you work for has a much bigger impact than your career – it impacts the name and fame of our matchless majestic God, either a positive or negative impact. Paul’s concern is not how you can get along better with your co-workers, or how you can get a raise, or even primarily about you anything – it’s all about the Lord. Your theology of God will affect your duties this week and in what mindset you have as you fulfill them.
Everything you do on Monday should be through God and to God. Everything in your life is from Him and through Him and to Him.
I hope you remember those simple phrases we’ve been repeating, I hope they can become a God-centered grid through which we process everything in our life “from Him and through Him and to Him.”
What should you do on Monday? Begin by praying for God’s help to see your life and calling rightly, pursuing a God-consciousness in everything you do, a cultivated God-awareness, a reliance upon God as you do your work in His strength not your own, and seeking to live in such a way that your chief end and goal, your ultimate motive is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. “For from him and through him and to Him are all things, to God be the glory now and forever. Amen.”
Larry McCall, “A Biblical Ethic of Work,” Reformation and Revival Volume 5/4 (Fall 1996), p. 135-136.
Marcus Dods, Book of Genesis, p. 25-26.
Kent Hughes, Genesis, 95.
Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, 126-27.
As cited by Eckman, Biblical Ethics, 71.