“Dad, why do you have to go to work?” The question from my young daughter was motivated by her desire to play with me. I would have preferred to skip work and spend time with her, but there was a growing list of things at work that required my attention. The question, nevertheless, is a good one. Why do we work? Is it simply to provide for ourselves and for the people we love? What about labor that’s unpaid—why do we do that?
Genesis 2 tells us that God placed the first human in the garden to “work it and take care of it” (v. 15). My father-in-law is a farmer, and he often tells me he farms for the sheer love of land and livestock. That’s beautiful, but it leaves lingering questions for those who don’t love their work. Why did God put us in a particular place with a particular assignment?
Genesis 1 gives us the answer. We’re made in God’s image to carefully steward the world He made (v. 26). Pagan stories of the way the world began reveal “gods” making humans to be their slaves. Genesis declares that the one true God made humans to be His representatives—to steward what He’d made on His behalf. May we reflect His wise and loving order into the world. Work is a call to cultivate God’s world for His glory.
On the first four days of creation, God created the physical infrastructures—the galaxies and earth—sky, land, and seas (Genesis 1:1–19). On days five and six, God created the living creatures—birds, fish, and land animals to populate the three realms (vv. 20–25). However, the epitome of creation was on day six when God created human beings. Humans were given prominence, purpose, and special placement in God’s plan; the only creature created “in [God’s] image, in [God’s] likeness” (v. 26). Only humans have the attributes of personhood, self-consciousness, will, reason, knowledge, emotions, creativity, morality, and spirituality, just as God Himself. Speaking of the crowning distinction of humans in creation, the patriarch Job asked of God, “What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention?” (Job 7:17; see Psalms 8:4–6; 144:3).