Stewardship and the Creation Mandate

January 24, 2017
Darrell L. Bock, Bill Hendricks, and Gordon H. Johnston

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Topic Time Codes

00:16
Hendricks’ background in the Faith and Work movement
06:59
Johnston’s background in Old Testament scholarship
08:40
What is the Creation Mandate?
13:07
What kinds of tasks are included in the Creation Mandate?
20:32
The image of God and the purpose of life
25:30
How does the fall affect our work?
33:24
God’s common grace and the value of physical work
40:35
The creation mandate, work, and worship

Transcript

Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I'm Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center. And to my right is Bill Hendricks, Execute Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center. And to my left is Gordon Johnston, who is a Professor of Old Testament Studies here at Dallas Theological Seminary.

So, we are trying something today, and the topic is "Faith and Work." We're going to try and do some academic stuff and some practical stuff all in one fell swoop. And we may need some prayer in the midst of this, but we'll see how it goes.

Now, let me start off by introducing kind of the premise of what we're dealing with. We have talked a lot, in many of these podcasts, about how Christians shouldn't divide up their lives, that there isn't the righteous and sacred and secular, but that our faith and work belong together; they belong connected.

And Bill's been a part of the faith and work movement for a long time. And Gordon, today, is just along for the ride. Okay? We've got him in here to talk about some Old Testament passages that feed into thinking this way.

And so, we're asking him for his expertise, and we're also going to be asking him for his impressions about what we're talking about as someone who works with Scripture. And in some cases, we're going to be informing him about what we're asking him about as we're doing it. So, we're kind of doing a little experiment here and see how this –
Gordon Johnston
'Cause I'm coming in completely cold.
Darrell Bock
Exactly right, you're coming completely cold, and we hope you walk out red-hot. So –
Bill Hendricks
He's a neutral witness.
Darrell Bock
He's a neutral witness for the cause, which we sometimes do. We actually did this – a variation of this at our last event, our last faith-work event in Houston. We asked two of the professors at the Extension in Houston to come and attend and be a part of it, and it was their first kind of direct involvement, and it was like an eye-opener for them.

So, we thought, "Well, let's see how this works in a podcast context. So, I'm not promising anything, okay? But we'll see how this goes.

So, let's start off this way. Bill, why don't you talk a little bit about the history of your involvement with the faith and work movement? Where did this start?
Bill Hendricks
For me?
Darrell Bock
Yeah. Where did you catch this bug?
Bill Hendricks
Probably from my dad.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Bill Hendricks
You know, Prof believed strongly in what, at the time, was called laymen – laypeople. And while he certainly had a passion to instruct seminarians and prepare pastors and ministry leaders, he had a huge realization that it is the everyday Christian out there in the workplace who's actually living this stuff out, and what Ephesians 4 calls them, "the saints." And they have a work of service. And the job of the pastors and teachers is to equip those people for their work.

And so, I grew up with that view, and it always made a lot of sense to me. That, coupled with the Colossians passage that talks about Christ as being Lord of all – if Christ is Lord of all, that means all. And that, from the get-go, to me meant not just sort of church activities and spiritual categories, but the everyday things that people connect with in their life, including their work.

And after I finished seminary, I was doing some consulting in communication projects and met Doug Sherman, who's a Dallas Seminary grad, and we began to join forces in a little organization called Career Impact Ministries. And then, in 1988, Doug and I coauthored a book called Your Work Matters to God. And that was the thesis of the book, that everyday work is something that God is very interested in and all the implications of that.

And that book became, to some extent, standard reading for a lot of people who were interested in, "How does my faith relate to my work," and actually stayed in print until about a year ago.
Darrell Bock
So, our work no longer matters to God?
Bill Hendricks
Well, I used to say that we needed to update the book. And one of these days, I'm going to get around to writing a sequel called Your Work Still Matters to God.
Darrell Bock
There you go. Well, that makes sense. So, really what your dad was sensing – your dad's Howard Hendricks, of course – was sensing was kind of the frontline nature of ministry and engagement and the application of the Christian life that was happening – that was happening in the places where people spend the bulk of their adult life.
Bill Hendricks
Well, "application" is the key word. Dad always – you know, he did his thesis on James. Let's not just be hearers of the Word, let's be doers of the Word. And what's so fascinating to me is that we are now right in the middle of kind of a – kind of a movement in the faith and work movement, but in our culture, where knowledge workers are very busy people, and they're very practical people. And if they have something in their life that doesn't really make much difference in their day-to-day, they kind of throw it away, and particularly with Millennials coming up.

And that means that when we talk about integrating our faith into our day-to-day lives, that's a discipleship issue. But because so much of our lives are dominated by work, it ends up in a faith and work conversation to a large extent.

And so, what knowledge workers, who happen to be believers, want to know is how does this faith thing apply to my work? The meaning of that work, the value of it, how I do it, where I do it, how I relate to my co-workers, so forth.
Darrell Bock
So, we're not talking about how to do evangelism at work.
Bill Hendricks
That's absolutely vital and needs to happen, but that's not why – that's not the main reason, actually, why we're in the workplace. It's actually the work itself that matters. And for that, we go back to Genesis 1, and I'm going to be interested to see what Gordon has to say, but the very first words that God says to human beings after he creates them have to do with their work, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth, rule it."

And the idea here is we're supposed to make the world fruitful. You know, the world, on its own, is not very fruitful. Like you're never going to stand next to a mountain of ore – iron ore – and suddenly see a Mercedes Benz pop out.
Darrell Bock
No, I haven't ever seen that.
Bill Hendricks
No.
Darrell Bock
That's a good observation.
Bill Hendricks
I mean humans have to add value to those raw resources and do something with them to make the world flourish.
Darrell Bock
And the creative nature of that work of management and design is part of the way God actually has made us and one of the ways –
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
– we make the creation work.
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
Okay. Well, now, Gordon, it's your turn to be on the biographical hot seat. Tell us about what – now, my question for you is very different. What pulled you into Old Testament? What turned you into an Old Testament person?
Gordon Johnston
Well, you know, it is interesting. It wasn't so much for career goals in terms of, you know, what did I want to do? To have a lot of money or have a nice living –
Darrell Bock
That's transparent.
Gordon Johnston
It really was just the sheer delight. I mean it's interesting the point that you make. It was the sheer delight of the joy of being able to open up the Hebrew Scriptures and, if you will, to get lost in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
Mm-hmm.
Gordon Johnston
It just does something to my soul and gives me joy. And when I wake up in the morning, I realize I get to be in Scripture today with people that love the Lord and act in a kind, professional way with one another, and it's just a delight.

I'm really appreciative of people that are out working on the highways and digging ditches and putting down concrete and things like that.
Darrell Bock
They enable you to get from one place to another.
Gordon Johnston
They do; it's a noble living.
Darrell Bock
That's right.
Gordon Johnston
It's a noble living. And every single occupation is a noble living. But there is – it just – I – this is the way God hotwired me.
Bill Hendricks
Mm-hmm, good to know that.
Gordon Johnston
And I think that's – yeah, and it's one of these things – and Scripture talks about that, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. It's what your hand has been made to do –
Bill Hendricks
Yes.
Gordon Johnston
– and does naturally and what you find fulfillment in. And this was – you know, believe it or not, looking at these funny letters and squiggles, this is what –
Darrell Bock
That are Hebrew text.
Gordon Johnston
That are Hebrew text, this is what resonates with me.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. Huh. Well, let's dive in here and kind of get rolling. Let's talk about Genesis 1 a little bit. I don't think we can talk about this topic without taking a look at Genesis 1.

Now, it's interesting, this is going to be our second go at this, because not very recently – or fairly recently, rather, had a conversation with Michael Thigpen, who teaches Old Testament at Talbot Biola, about this very passage. So, it'll be interesting to see what insights you give to us vs. what he gave to us earlier.

So, I'm going to ask you, help us with the creation mandate in Genesis 1. What's going on? What's God saying about the task that he gives human beings to reflect on and to be, as a result of his having created them?
Gordon Johnston
Well, the way I look at the text is that everything that God's doing, clearly the rest of the Scripture talks about it's for his glory. But as the text is unfolding, everything that God's doing is preparing the Earth for man to be able to have a place to live, make space for man. Hence, when he finally makes man, man's going to be able to survive and thrive in this situation.

So, he vegetates the land first. He puts the trees there so they're ready to go for man. He's got the animals there. Everything's ready for man when he gets on the scene. But it's there, as Bill made the point before, it's there in its potential. And he gives this command to be fruitful and multiply, fill the Earth, subdue the Earth.

The way I read it, I don't read those commands – and this might surprise you; I'd be interested to see how you respond – I don't read those commands so much as imperatives that we pass on to our children as if there's a command. I view them more as imperatives of endowment, that this is the kind of people that he's made us in creation. He said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Darrell Bock
"I'm giving you the space and the capability to be this kind of person."
Gordon Johnston
That's right; that's right. "And the kind of people I'm making you are people that are naturally going to multiply. Naturally you fall in love, you naturally have a family. You're naturally going to have a task, and you're naturally going to be seeking a challenge, and you naturally want to have some success. And that's the kind of people that I make you to be."
Bill Hendricks
I like that.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
The idea is that work is not something you have to do; it's something you get to do.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah, it's something you get to do. It's something that he's actually hotwired us to do from the very beginning.
Bill Hendricks
Right. And unfortunately, obviously, all of us are looking at this from within the fall.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Bill Hendricks
It's almost impossible for many people to imagine work as something they – quote – get to do.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Gordon Johnston
Well, and what's – and the way the text gets laid out – and not just in Genesis 1, particularly in Genesis 2, it's this garden, or fruit orchard, whatever you want to have. The picture in Genesis 2 is of a royal pleasure garden in terms of the way that everything reads.

In the ancient Near East, kings of the ancient Near East would often have a pleasure garden. They would import trees and import plants and import all sorts of exotic animals. And only kings could afford this, and they would do it just for the sheer delight. And they would bring the most expensive, the most exotic. And so, it was – it's more than a zoo. Okay? But it was for a king.

And the text is presenting itself that this is what God is making for himself, because he's going to stroll, in the cool of the day, and enjoy this place. And what God did is he gave it to Adam. He's not a zookeeper, and he's not just a gardener, but he's the one that's in charge of this and, if you will, to enjoy this with God.

So, the picture – and all of man's needs are going to be taken care of in the garden. He doesn't have to work in order to eat. The food is there for him. Rather, the task is there to enjoy this, to delight in this. It's something that – it's a pleasurable thing.

It's not unlike – some people like to garden in their backyard, and they turn their garden in their backyard into something that they can really enjoy.
Bill Hendricks
It's their oasis.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah, their oasis. Sometimes people – wives especially – will really go to work, when you get a new house, to kind of nest into it, to make it your own.
Darrell Bock
Make the home your home.
Gordon Johnston
To make home your own, 'cause you're making space. You're making it yours. And sometimes I think we miss the benefit of doing that. We just move into a house and we don't make it our own, or we don't make the backyard someplace that we just enjoy in the cool of the day, at the end of the day, just to go there to enjoy and to recharge and to get the joy out of that. And that's really – I think that's the picture that I see in Genesis Chapter 2.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. Well, let's take a look at the passage and kind of break it down into its bits here. I'm in Genesis 1:26, and my age requires me to do this. And it says:

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image," [reading from the NET] "after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, the cattle, over all the earth, over all the creatures that move on the earth.

God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.

And it says:

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground."

And then it goes on to talk about, you know, what he's offering them in the garden. But that's really the – what's called the mandate. That's really the description of the task.

So, ye Old Testament scholar, what's going on here? What are we being – what are we being told the task of humanity is before God?
Gordon Johnston
It's – it is a bit difficult in terms of what does it mean to rule and subdue over this. How was man supposed to rule and subdue over the fish, over the birds of the air? What does that mean? We normally think, in terms of ruling and subduing, in terms of some kind of noncompliant, subordinate or some enemy that we have to conquer in terms of subdue. And I don't see any kind of conflict here. I don't see any kind of battle here.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, 'cause we're pre-Genesis 3.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah, this is pre-Genesis 3, and this is the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. My gut feeling on this is that it has to do with mirroring God's rule and being co-regent. He talks about making male and female as his image. And the Hebrew word tselem has to do with a representative. Image sometimes is used of a statue –
Darrell Bock
Statue, yeah.
Gordon Johnston
– that looks like a person. It's not that we look like God, but in the ancient Near East, people – kings often made statues to represent them, as a representative when they weren't there.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Gordon Johnston
And, if you will, the way I read the text is that man is representing God, and that man is naturally going to rise up as the co-regent over creation. And we've done that over the course of history.

I think the first way that this ended up getting fulfilled was by domestication of the crops – or domestication of the flocks and cultivation of the crops. You get that in Genesis Chapter 2. One of the first things God does is to have man till the ground and name the animals.

And then, in Genesis 4, the first two folks we run into, one's a shepherd and one's a farmer.
Darrell Bock
So, if I'm boiling this down, it's a full explanation, but if I'm going to boil this down and put it in one word, is it management or stewardship? We manage or steward the creation? We help give it structure and organization and make it run effectively and efficiently?
Gordon Johnston
I think so. And, if you will – and it's not so much in the sense of that God's making us gardeners or zookeepers.
Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Gordon Johnston
It's not so much that, because he's really made the space for man, but it's really for man, as co-regent, to be able to create an idyllic society in which we take care of one another, in which our needs are being met, where everything's copacetic, and that we're not exploiting the creation, but we're fitting into it.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Bill Hendricks
Well, Gordon, earlier you used the word "potential."
Gordon Johnston
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
Creation has this potential as a resource. And from that standpoint, wouldn't rule have the idea of – it is the right of humanity to unlock this potential?
Gordon Johnston
I think so, yeah. If you will, kind of coaching it. Coaching it and teasing it into its full potential.
Bill Hendricks
Well, and that also has the idea of exploration and discovery, "Look what we got here. What could we do with this? Well, we could take it that way. Hey, but we could also take it this way." And there's just like this unlimited –
Darrell Bock
Creativity.
Bill Hendricks
– sense of possibilities or creativity for what we could do with what all is packed in here.
Gordon Johnston
See, and the irony is, unfortunately, too – and this is – I don't want this to be a political statement – but the irony is too many Christians are suspicious of science –
Bill Hendricks
Yes.
Gordon Johnston
– and suspicious of these kind of things, and that's actually – even astronomy and the genetics programs and things, where they're drilling down and trying to discover what's there.

And granted, a non-Christian scientist is not going to see God's fingerprint in what he's looking at, but I think we, as Christians, we would say, "Well, he's seeing God's footprints whether or not he knows God's the one that did that."
Bill Hendricks
Right, right.
Gordon Johnston
And so, yeah, I see this.
Darrell Bock
Let's go back to the image idea, 'cause you talked about representation. How much of this is representation and how much of it is designed to be reflection, that we're supposed to be not just a representative of God, but almost an imitator of God. How much of that is in the picture?
Gordon Johnston
Absolutely, because one of the first – one of the tragic ironies is man's supposed to subdue and rule the Earth, but he doesn't even end up ruling and subduing himself. He goes astray. So, everything goes awry when you have sin in this.

And so, part of ruling and subduing – and the reformed tradition often talks about the culture mandate coming out of Genesis 1, the idea that we – God is calling us to bring everything, within our own personal domain, into subjection to God and into the glory of God by our influence, by pointing to Christ. In everything that we do: in terms of social justice, in terms of moral righteousness, how we live, how we impact society, how we're a neighbor, how we raise our family.
Darrell Bock
So, imitation is a part of the picture and image.
Gordon Johnston
I think so.
Darrell Bock
And, of course, the other interesting thing about the image is it's designed relationally, because we've got male and female. We don't just have – we just don't have one way of imaging, if I can say it that way.

So, we've got this gender thing that's happening. And the genders were created to together do this subduing, that this was a mutually shared responsibility in which they were to uphold one another in the pursuit of what it is that God has asked them to do.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah. And it's – you know, part of it may be the fact that we're not made to be alone. I'm not quite sure that this was intentionally trying to reflect the Trinity, because then the question would be, "Why is there not three of them –"
Darrell Bock
Right, right, right.
Gordon Johnston
"– right away?" But he's hotwired us in a way for relationship. And even Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 – I was just in that this morning, so, this is why I'm going there – he's talked – in Ecclesiastes 4 it talks about work, about having a balanced approach to work. You want to work hard, but you also need to play hard. And you want to work hard so that you have the fruit of your labor that you can enjoy your life with, but you also need to have somebody to enjoy your life with. Otherwise, why are you working so hard if you're not taking time to enjoy your life?
Darrell Bock
Well, this is a good foundation to lay here.

Bill, what I see in this passage, in relationship to work and image, etcetera, is the idea, then, that where God has us and places us, wherever that might be, and whatever we might be doing, has a purpose and a direction as we help to manage – we're called upon, actually, to manage where God has us.
Bill Hendricks
Yes. And, of course, that opens up the whole area that I – my specialization is, which is giftedness. That to each and every human, God has given a means by which to steward this creation and to add that value. And so, it becomes very important that people find a means of discovering, "Well, what is that for them?" And you –
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm, how has God wired me to be a part of this overall question?
Bill Hendricks
Yes. And you gave us a great example earlier when you talked about, "I love to understand what these letters mean." And you delight in that. But the great thing is, then that opens up a whole world of stuff for the rest of us who don't read Hebrew and need folks like you to exercise your giftedness.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. So, we see this cooperation. This is very much a team operation.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, right.
Darrell Bock
I mean you've got a variety of people with a variety of different skills.
Bill Hendricks
You need all kinds of gifts to make the world –
Darrell Bock
Exactly right.
Gordon Johnston
See, I was at Barnes & Noble's not too long ago, and my wife, when she was in college, she gave up pursuing med school to put me through seminary. And the idea was is that she was gonna go to med school after I finished my Th.M., and then I said, "Well, I'd like to do a Ph.D., what do you think?"

And she started thinking about, "Well, we're going to have kids, so maybe it would be a good idea to be a mom."

Well, after all these years now, and the kids are going off to college, and she's thinking, "Well, what about that now?" And so, she's going back.
Bill Hendricks
Seriously?
Gordon Johnston
She's starting her master's program.
Bill Hendricks
Very cool.
Gordon Johnston
And there is something that's welling up in her soul, because she was made to do this. And I saw a book in Barnes & Noble's not too long ago, and it said, "You need to be the person you were made to be, born to be."

And I – 'cause she was saying, "Should I do this?"

And I said, "Well, you know –"

So, all that to say, "Yes."
Darrell Bock
I'll just mention in passing a passage that has always struck me, because it seemed, in one sense so odd, and yet in light of this it fits, and that is – it's a passage in Exodus where we're going through the building of the tabernacle, and God actually takes the time and having Moses right this out.
Gordon Johnston
In incredible detail.
Darrell Bock
In incredible detail, to go through almost every role that someone is performing, one at a time, to build the tabernacle. It's like an illustration that I like to do, that we've done on the podcast before, about what does it take for you to have a bowl of Wheaties in the morning? And you think about whether you're talking about the grain or the milk or the bowl or the table or the house. You know? It takes a lot of people for you to sit down and have a bowl of Wheaties in the morning.

And so, you build the tabernacle, and we're talking about all these craftsmen, all these people of different kinds of skills all working together to build this house that will honor God.

And it's really, in some ways, a wonderful metaphor of what the creation is supposed to be. That we – that it takes all these people, working on their gifts, in order to do this.

So – and I inevitably think about this passage when this topic comes up.
Gordon Johnston
Well, and not only do you have all the laborers, but it also – the text also talks about all the Israelites made contributions to it. So, even those that didn't work on it directly, they contributed to it in terms of the stuff that they had they came out of Egypt with.
Bill Hendricks
And when you roll forward to 1 Chronicles, there at the end, where David is contemplating the temple, and he's not going to build it, but Solomon is, but it goes through all of the musicians and the people that are going to serve and all these different roles.
Darrell Bock
That's right. So, you've got some people who build it, and some people who make it work once it's built.
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah.
Gordon Johnston
And – and – we're talking about this –
Darrell Bock
We're on a roll.
Gordon Johnston
In Zechariah 6, of all places, 9 to 15 it talks about the new temple of the Messiah, and he talks about those that are near and those that are far are going to come, and they will all contribute together to build it. Those that were near were already in Jerusalem; those that were far were still the exiles.

And then the New Testament picks up on that temple imagery and now applies it to the Church: those that are near and those that are far, they're doing the work now of building this new temple.
Darrell Bock
Well, and since we're taking this journey, I guess –
Darrell Bock
– we'll end up in Revelation.
Darrell Bock
I was going to say when we get to the end of Revelation, the whole thing is pictured as a huge temple. I mean when we're all said and done. So, it's no accident, you know, that the picture of a variety of people who all do what God has gifted them to do in such a way that we end up with a great creation functioning the way it's designed to function.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't go from Genesis 1 to the end of Revelation. There's stuff that happens in between that's pretty messy and gums up the works. So, in association with the idea of toiling. So, what's going on there? What happened to this design?
Gordon Johnston
That's great. So – the way you set that up – so, we mentioned before, in Genesis 2, the task given to Adam in the Garden is pictured as this royal pleasure garden that's for God's enjoyment and for man's enjoyment, and it would be just a delight. And everything that's there is just a delight. The whole experience and everything –
Darrell Bock
And when you say that, I think about how the creation sometimes just overwhelms us. You go to certain parts of the creation, whether it's the Rocky Mountains or the Blue Ridge Mountains – I happen to like the Ashville, North Carolina, area – or you go to some of the coastlines that you see, that the globe is able to display.
Bill Hendricks
South Pacific.
Darrell Bock
South Pacific's great. I've been to the coastline in Ireland or the coastline that – between Calais and – where do you come to in the U.K. when you go from Calais to England, and you –
Bill Hendricks
Dunkirk?
Darrell Bock
Huh?
Bill Hendricks
Dunkirk?
Darrell Bock
No, I'm not thinking about Dunkirk; I'm thinking about where the channel goes, but I've lost the thought of where it is. You're in England on the coast and – Dover.
Bill Hendricks
Dover.
Darrell Bock
And you end up with these magnificent vistas, and you watch – or you see a beautiful sunset, and you go, "How marvelous."
Gordon Johnston
See, and I think we fail to do that. We just read the text, and we don't – we don't jump into it and see the picture it's trying to prize.
Darrell Bock
That's right.
Gordon Johnston
You've got these four rivers that come out of the garden and water the rest of the face of the Earth, and at the end of – at the end of one river, there's gold. At the end of another river, there's cardelian. It's just this idyllic – I mean you start trying to think about that.

And then he talks about every tree that was a delight to the eye, and we pass over that, 'cause we're so interested in trying to mine out the theology of original sin, that we sometimes miss the picture that was being presented there.
Darrell Bock
And where we started – we forget where we started.
Gordon Johnston
That's right.
Darrell Bock
And I actually think – I actually think that too much theology starts in Genesis 3 –
Bill Hendricks
Absolutely.
Darrell Bock
– and forgets about Genesis 1 and 2.
Bill Hendricks
Absolutely.
Darrell Bock
So – but, we had to get here.
Gordon Johnston
We do get there.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Gordon Johnston
We reluctantly want to talk about sin and death and everything.
Darrell Bock
So, okay, Genesis 3 happens. We have sin. And how does that muck things up?
Gordon Johnston
So, we get kicked out of the garden, and it's not that man had immortality from the beginning and somehow our DNA was taken away. We were created from the dust. We were immortal – we were mortal from the beginning. There was opportunity for immortality in God's presence. But because of sin, we get driven out.

And so, the natural death and decay and mortality takes over, and man is cast out. Now you're going to have – you're going to be on your own, and it's not going to be easy out there. And man is cast away, and now man's going to have to fight.

And so, rather than naturally subduing, now it's going to be a fight for survival, and we're going to have to eke out a living, and it's not going to cooperate.
Darrell Bock
And the curse that happens right after the sin, that is the consequence of the rebellion, introduces this element of struggle and toil pushback, if you will –
Gordon Johnston
It's pushback.
Darrell Bock
– from the creation.
Gordon Johnston
And it's hard.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Gordon Johnston
It's hard. And we forget about it because, you know, in our society, well, we've developed so much. But you think through about a settler going into new territory and having to plow the dirt for himself and having to build his first home and having to eke all these things out, and he has no running water, and he has no electricity – I mean it's just difficult.

People go camping sometimes and they die. And there's a reason why we don't live in the woods anymore. We're in villages and towns and it's –
Darrell Bock
Yeah, I mean if you've ever had to clear out a garden that's been left untended for a long period of time, what a mess and an effort that is. You know what we're talking about. So, we've got this –
Gordon Johnston
And it's not easy. And what happens is, because it's so hard, people have to compete with one another.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Gordon Johnston
And so, from the very beginning, you've got this tension between shepherds and farmers, and you've got tension and struggle because everybody's fighting for survival. And people end up starting to turn on one another 'cause it's hard.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Gordon Johnston
And you – and there's a tendency to try to be greedy and to protect what you have and to want what they have. And it's the whole – it's –
Bill Hendricks
Well, and authority gets all messed up. So, you have these power lines that start into play and systems that protect the rights of some and take advantage of others.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, it's – I mean it – I mean obviously the whole story of the Old Testament is a pretty chaotic mess, in some ways, in terms of how – what our rebellion ends up producing that gets in the way of this very idyllic picture that we started off with.

And yet, God still works through it. So, there are other passages that talk about how we're supposed to view this, even in the midst of the struggle. What do those passages do for us, and which kinds of passages are we talking –
Gordon Johnston
Well, if we're looking in Genesis, we have God's offer of blessing, and the blessing is a happy life and fruitfulness and happy home and things like this. And so, within redemption, in relationship with God, this curse could get turned into a blessing, and things would be copacetic and peaceful and prosperous.

Isaiah 65 – we jump back to the end, and Isaiah 65, when he talks about the new Jerusalem, he does talk about the fact that there's still going to be work in the end, but they're going to work, and they're going to build houses, but people aren't going to take 'em away. They're going to plant vineyards, but people won't loot them. And he talks about there'll be enjoyment. You'll work, and you'll enjoy the work, because you're not going to be working in futility.

And so, there's still labor from the very beginning. Even in our temple image at the end, it's – there's going to be labor there. We're not just going to be sitting around, being bored like, "What are we going to do?"
Darrell Bock
So, I'm not going up and getting a white choir cloth and playing a harp?
Gordon Johnston
Yeah, I mean that's half the reason, I think, half the time people don't want to go to Heaven. They say if you –
Darrell Bock
What am I going to do when I get there?
Gordon Johnston
What am I going to do there? I'm going to be bored.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah.
Gordon Johnston
So – but one of the – I think one of the important set of passages on this is in Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes balance work and toil, and he talks about, in Ecclesiastes Chapter 9 – here's one of the passages; I'll just read it – Ecclesiastes 9 – and it goes along with what Bill was saying. Kohelet says:

Go, eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, because God has already approved your work. Let your clothes be white, and don't spare precious ointment on your head. Enjoy life with your beloved wife all the days of your fleeting life that God has given you on earth; for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome toil on the earth. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place that you're eventually going to go.

Now, Kohelet doesn't have the hope of the resurrection yet. But he –
Darrell Bock
By Kohelet, you mean Ecclesiastes?
Gordon Johnston
Ecclesiastes. The preacher – the author of Ecclesiastes. But he talks about, in God's blessing, there's still work to do. And God can give somebody – equips people with talent. And one of the keys is to either – there's toil out there, but if you find the way that you're hotwired, it can be enjoyable, and that you can throw in it with all your might, and you enjoy it. And you can enjoy the fruit of your labor and your toil.
Darrell Bock
Now the flipside of this is, Bill, that we're – you know, we've got these passages that talk about the toil and the labor and the giftedness, etcetera. But the point that the text is making is that this work actually accomplishes something. It serves; it organizes; it makes life a little more manageable and a little more pleasant, and it gets us relating and working together with one another. At least it has the potential to do that.
Bill Hendricks
Sure. And I think that's a part of common grace. I think part of the way God dispenses his grace into the world is through people using the gifts that he's given them.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
You mentioned earlier the guy that's laying concrete, or the person that's putting up a building. I mean we're the beneficiaries in this studio of people who did that work. And God uses all of human labor to accomplish these purposes, because he wants to meet the needs of people. Every day, people get down on their needs and pray to God, "Oh, I have this need, that need." My own view is that 90 percent of the time, when God meets needs, he does so through people who are gifted to the task.

And so, you're absolutely correct, that this work that we do makes a contribution to the world. And people can say, "Yeah, but it's just a temporary or temporal contribution."

And I'm like, "So, what's wrong with that?"

Sure, the farmer's work has temporal value. I'm sure glad he does it, because I sure need to eat. Yeah, some people work with things that we would say have more sort of eternal significance or whatever, but God is interested in significance and value regardless of whether it's time bound or eternity bound.
Darrell Bock
I mean if the farmers stop milking the cow –
Bill Hendricks
We're in trouble.
Darrell Bock
You know?
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Darrell Bock
We'd be in trouble. And so, there is this – there's almost – and there's almost an element of dependent service that's involved here, because we depend on the farmer milking the cow, or the person, you know, harvesting the fruit or whatever.

In the service – I'm sitting here, as we were talking, and I think – we're in a room has lights, has all kinds of technical equipment in it that allows us to do what we're doing. There's been all kinds of creativity that's gone into the making of the computer so that you can look up your text. All the wiring that goes into being able to broadcast this. We're in a room that's been designed by architects and have been built up by builders. We can sit here – we even don't have to worry about the temperature in here –
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Darrell Bock
– because someone's been creative –
Bill Hendricks
Figured that out.
Darrell Bock
– in figuring out how to do all that.

In all – and then there's all the logistical support people that make those business happen. You know, someone's got to keep the books.
Bill Hendricks
Somebody's got to finance it.
Darrell Bock
Someone's got to finance it. Someone's got to communicate with the people who do their job so they can do their job –
Bill Hendricks
Someone's got to educate those people to –
Darrell Bock
Exactly right.
Bill Hendricks
Someone's got to attend to their physical needs.
Darrell Bock
And all that matters.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Darrell Bock
All of it matters.
Bill Hendricks
All of it. Well, we didn't really get into it, but there in Genesis 2, back there, we have to realize, you know, what is a human? And a human is a soul-body unity. There's a material dimension and an immaterial dimension. And some of the work that God has given us to do has to do with the material-physical world, including the physical material part of human beings.

Some of it has to do with this immaterial, spiritual soul part. Both are necessary because we are both a soul-body unity. And sometimes I think in church circles, I guess you'd call it, we lean away from the material side as if there's something wrong or not as important or somehow we shouldn't pay much attention to that.
Darrell Bock
You know, it's interesting, 'cause there is, in Greek philosophy, play Old/New Testament now – there is in Greek philosophy what's a philosophical movement called Platonism. Platonism is the idea that the real thing that really counts is the spiritual, and material is definitely an inferior level of the creation in one way or another. It's a poor model of the ideal.

And I actually do think that we have some, if I can say it this way, Neo-Platonism that sneaks into the Church. And so, we don't honor the physical nature of what it is that God has created. It's the passage in 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul says to the Corinthians, "Look, your body matters. It's going to be preserved along with your spirit and your soul."

And so, what you do with your body really matters. The way in which you handle the physical items of the world and the physical gifts that God has given you, the physicality that he's given you, it all matters.

And so, there is this – I think you're right. There's this tendency to denigrate certain things, because they're viewed as more mundane. But they're actually – I say to people, the Scripture, in one sense is about figuring out a way – how do we combine the cultural mandate or the cultural commission that we have in Genesis 1 with the Great Commission that we have in Matthew 28? How do you bring those two things together?

I mean if you don't see the spiritual value and the spiritual merit of what living the way God has designed you to live is. If you don't get that part, then there's a disconnect. And so – and I don't think we talk about it – this near enough. I mean we talk about a whole lot of other things.
Gordon Johnston
And the point that you made about what we do, it's not – I mean clearly what we do for eternity matters. But this idea, this disconnect that anything that's physical and material and temporal doesn't matter – you backed me in, actually, the passage I wanted to go to a little bit, and it was actually a better introduction.

In Ecclesiastes 2, Kohelet, the author – he calls himself Kohelet – he makes the point – he says, "Ultimately it's true." He talks about building houses, planting vineyards, making royal gardens, planting all sorts of trees and pools of water and irrigating and all of this –
Bill Hendricks
You're back to your pleasure garden.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah. Pleasure garden, yeah. And he makes the point – he says, "Ultimately, yes." Ultimately, in light of eternity, it's hevel. It is meaningless in light of eternity. But he still says – he still says, "I didn't hold back myself from doing any of these things." And he says, "And I experienced joy in my labor, and this was my reward for all my hard work, and this was a gift of God."

So, it was – during the course of his life, it was good. It was enjoyable. It was beneficial. This was God's gift and his reward in this life. And he recognizes, "At death, I'm going to lose it all. So, ultimately, it was futile in terms of eternity, but it was still something – it was good for me to do; it was the task that God gave me to do. It gave me joy. It gave me opportunity to worship God and to thank God."

This is what he – and we make this dichotomy. We often think that if something's eternally futile, then it's got no value. And he says, "No, the same thing can be beneficial in the here and now. It might not be eternally significant in the long run, but it is good now to be enjoyed."
Bill Hendricks
So, let me throw a devil's advocate question in here.
Darrell Bock
Okay, good. 'Cause I'm going the same direction, maybe.
Bill Hendricks
I can hear –
Gordon Johnston
But you could argue, though, if it's good now, then it gives you opportunity then to be eternally significant as well.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I can hear someone out here saying, "This just sounds like kind of a new kind of a prosperity gospel. Like we should just set this up so all we do is enjoy life and seek to be rich and – yeah, maybe it doesn't matter in eternity, but the Bible says that's a good thing to do.
Gordon Johnston
That's a good point, and Kohelet ends up saying that the only way you can have enjoyment of life is if you fear God –
Bill Hendricks
Fear God.
Gordon Johnston
– and please God.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Darrell Bock
That's right.
Gordon Johnston
And that's where he ends up going. He says, "To the one that fears God, the one that pleases him, God gives the ability and skill to work hard and to enjoy life. But to the person that's a sinner, he gives the task of gathering and collecting only to give it away." So, he wants us – God's gift is for us to be able to enjoy life.

But the only way we can do that is if we fear God and keep his commandments.
Bill Hendricks
And follow his commandments.
Darrell Bock
And part of that activity of fearing God is actually to participate in the creation that he's given us well. And that's what I think we sometimes miss is that we created it just in the world of ideas, or we create it in the world of how I think about things and that kind of thing.

But actually, what – Genesis is very down-to-earth. It's very dusty, if I can say it that way, on purpose. And it's dusty in the sense that you – we've been designed, because we reflect the creativity and the energy and the relational dimensions of God to inject that in a healthy way in the creation. That's what we're called to do and to be. That's how we're supposed to live.

And even people who don't know God are still given these capabilities of being able to help people get there to some degree, because that's the image of God at work in us.
Gordon Johnston
And they may be living up to their God-given potential without recognizing where it's coming from.
Darrell Bock
Exactly right. That's the common grace idea, exactly. So, it's an interesting way to think about things.

Okay, Gordon, now this is kind of – you know, we said we were kind of baptizing you in this conversation, if I can use another image. What's the drenching been like?
Gordon Johnston
This is great.
Darrell Bock
Yeah?
Gordon Johnston
This whole thing is making me think I need to go home now. I want to go home now and work in my backyard.
Darrell Bock
Well, I'm not sure we're driving just for that application.
Darrell Bock
But yeah.
Gordon Johnston
But Bill's point, if can follow up on this, this false dichotomy of between the secular and the spiritual. We've got three kids. A lot of people assume, "Well, you must be teaching your kids Greek and Hebrew, and you're training them to go be Bible professors and things like that."

It's like, "No."

It's like, "What?"

"Well, if they want to learn Greek and Hebrew, that's fine; I'm not pushing that on 'em." My daughter wants to be a clinical psychologist to help people, to –
Darrell Bock
She's been around you a long time.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah. There must be a lot of people that – yeah. She wants to help people that are in need. My son wants to become a defense attorney to help people. My younger son still wants to make a living playing video games, but –
Darrell Bock
It's early for him.
Gordon Johnston
It's a little early.
Bill Hendricks
He'll figure it out, yeah.
Gordon Johnston
That's right, he'll figure it out.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. I love telling this story. My son is in sports law. And he's done a lot of Title IX work. One of the first things he did, when he first got a job, was to do Title IX work for a university, protecting the abuse of women that that law calls for and helping universities know how to react when things go bad.

And I – at one point, when he was all done with this, I turned to him, and I said, "What a wonderful use of the legal skills you've learned." I was proud as could be of him, because he had taken something that people use in a wide variety of ways, and he had actually thought about, "How do I make this work in a way that really is of terrific benefit to people?"
Gordon Johnston
Promoting social justice and righteousness.
Darrell Bock
Exactly right. And I'm sitting here going, "I couldn't do that." You know? And he took years of training to do that. He had all kinds of choices with what he could do with it, and that's how he chose to use the skill. And I'm sitting here going, "That's nice."

And I think there's – that's a little cameo of what's possible when we think about our work in a healthy way, and we wed it to service, and we wed it to being made in the image of God, and we think about the way I do my work, no matter what it is, does matter, because it does make life better for some people in some ways.
Bill Hendricks
Well, we're going to have to come back and do another podcast, at some point, because there are many, many millions of people around the world for whom their options are so limited –
Darrell Bock
Exactly.
Bill Hendricks
– that this conversation itself seems like an impossibility.
Darrell Bock
That's right. I think that's fair. There's a whole faith and work dimension – in fact, the faith and work movement is always wrestling with, "Well, it sounds wonderful if you're in control of your business, but what –"
Gordon Johnston
But what if you have no options.
Darrell Bock
Exactly right.
Bill Hendricks
The rice farmer in North Korea.
Darrell Bock
Exactly. So – and there is the whole issue of what we might call an exalted theology of the mundane. And I think that that is also a very, very important discussion.

Gordon, I thank you for coming in and helping us kind of take a look at the Old Testament, what it has to offer, and, Bill, your coming in and being a part of this. We're glad you're a part of The Table podcast today, and we hope you'll be back again with us really soon.

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