In the book of Genesis, we’re told a story about work. We’re introduced to a creator God as he’s performing his initial acts of work in our world. First, he created the original structure and foundation of everything–heavens and earth, light and darkness, and water, sky, and land. Then came vegetation, sun, moon, and stars in rotation, creatures of the sea, birds of the air, and beasts of the fields.
He called them good.
Then he did something different.
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
Then he called it very good.
From the dust of the ground and the breath of God, Adama, the earth creature, the first human, was created. Adama was considered different than the rest of creation and was given dominion over it. More than that, Adama was given creation responsibilities.
Being created in God’s image, in his likeness, meant that he was to also be a creator. And his first creation task was naming the animals, giving them identity. Adama began participating with God in his creation of the world.
But something changed. If you know the rest of creation story, Adam and Eve disobeyed in the first act of self-interest. And this is important to note, because this original sin–self centeredness–was the act then and continues to be that act today that demotes work from creation to toil.
Whether you ascribe to this narrative about the formation of our world or not, I think we can all agree that we have “creator” in our identity, and yet self interest prohibits this. The reason I believe this is so important is that I need to ground myself in God’s original intent for humanity and his identity for me if I am to understand the original structure and intent of the world and everything in it, including work.
As I’ve been meditating on this, here’s the question I’ve been wrestling with: What is work, and how do we redeem it to its original intention?
In common usage, work is a job, a means of earning an income. The dictionary definition says: “Work is an activity involving effort to achieve a purpose.” But I believe it’s more than that. I believe work is any act of creation or re-creation that makes the world what it was intended to be.
The original work was creation, and I believe that perspective can and should be redeemed. Our work is creation.
Self-centeredness makes work become toil, but we have the opportunity to restore its original characteristics: curiosity, joy, hope, and beauty. We have the opportunity to be creators.
In my next post, I’ll dive into what it means to be creators, but I’d love to dwell in these question first: What percentage of my day is toil instead of creation? In what ways do I perpetuate work as toil through self-centeredness?
As we continue this conversation as a community, I’d love to know what questions were prompted for you and what challenges you’re facing. Tweet your thoughts + questions to @fldwrktogether or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.