At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

Did the Garden of Eden Contain All the Capital We Need for Flourishing?

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There were no cellphones in the Garden of Eden.

There were, however, all of the elements in place for the eventual creation of cell phones.

The Garden of Eden was perfect, but it wasn’t finished. When God surveyed his creation, he said to man,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

God in his creation provided all things that we would ever need to flourish, and we are called to cultivate and improve our environment and those around us with these things.

We are inherently wired to create value, and this creative inclination is one of the most effective methods for truly helping those in need. There is an impulse written into every human heart to produce, create, invent, innovate and find new ways of doing things.

This is how our God created us, and in fact, it’s our obligation.

Human and Environmental Capital in the Garden of Eden

When we read through the account of man’s time in the Garden of Eden, we often gloss over his state prior to the Fall. We make note of the progression of creation, the fact that he actually walked and had fellowship with God, an unfortunate encounter with a talking snake, the first round of blame shifting, and then the ignominious boot from paradise and the indefinite brokenness that would follow.

We bemoan the exit from the Garden, as we should, but without seeing that the tools God provided to Adam before the Fall still exist, their (and our) cursed state notwithstanding.

The capital we use every day existed from the first day of our creation, and when we use our skills, gifts, talents, and gifts and apply them to creation we are fulfilling our job description as designated by our Creator:

Environmental Capital

The Garden possessed many gifts, and the application for some may seem mundane but worth our consideration. As mentioned above, we were not handed cell phones.

But we were given all of the materials necessary for their creation. The minerals, sand, and even the raw materials for the plastics were there, and then we had to apply our human capital and ingenuity to come to the result we enjoy now.

Human Capital

On the last day of creation, when God declared his work “very good,” he had finished creating man in his own image, but more than that, all things he created were now able to work together in harmony to bring about flourishing.

The implications for this are numerous. In light of his call to flourish, and in response to an understanding of his nature, we should pursue opportunities to understand our Creator better through understanding and cultivating our own physical and intellectual abilities.

We have each been given different gifts, and we’re each called to use them. This is why education, technical training, and professional development are so important. Using these gifts, we can develop the knowledge and wisdom to learn to become even better stewards of the skills and resources we’ve been given.

The Garden of Eden and Flourishing

In his book, A Heart for God, Sinclair Ferguson writes,

Twentieth-century man needs to be reminded at times that work is not the result of the Fall. Man was made to work, because the God who made him was a “working God.” Man was made to be creative, with his mind and his hands. Work is part of the dignity of his existence.

It is at this intersection of the mind and the hands of countless individuals who work together to create and innovate that flourishing comes about.

We were given all of the resources we need in the Garden of Eden. We were placed into an environment with just the resources we needed and a mind designed to mirror the creativity of our God.

Only he can create something out of nothing, but we reflect his creative capacity through our ability and responsibility to create something out of something.

As we use our resources and our minds, we are called also to help those around us to do the same. When we are unable to work and exercise creativity, we suffer, and those around us suffer. When we do exercise creativity and produce valuable items, we flourish and so do our neighbors.

If we truly want to help the least of these, let’s reflect on the Garden and revel in the ways that God is making new what was broken by the Fall.

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  • JB Wood

    Good stuff!

  • Art Sathoff

    I’m sharing a message on Biblical flourishing tomorrow. A November post from this blog gave me the idea, and your post today really gets me in the right frame of mind to share: thanks!

  • Russ McCullough

    Great post Anne, thank you. Adam and Eve were given an incredible amount of autonomy by God in the garden to fulfill his command to be fruitful and multiply. To me, this is a reflection of God’s management philosophy that he believes in for flourishing. Rather than command and control, we will best fulfill our calling through using our creative abilities to listen as best we can to the will of God and empower those close to us with that message.

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