Work, Environmentalism, and Human DNA

“Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” – Genesis 2:15

There is a fundamental misunderstanding about Adam’s role in the Garden of Eden, which is, for us, the earth. The Garden, our ecosystem, provides for all of our physical needs. In fact, it provides abundantly…except where sin has so corrupted the human heart that the abundance is not shared but hoarded or spent on self-indulgent or self-aggrandizing opulence. But I digress.

The misunderstanding comes from not paying careful attention when we read the Bible, which is another essay unto itself still waiting to be written. We may not have heard many sermons on the theology of work or stewardship based on Genesis 2:15 but I have yet to hear one (insofar as I can recall) that got it quite right. Since this is a field very connected to my focus on the integration of Judeo-Christian faith and economics, I spend a fair amount of time reading or listening to what others have to say about this pivotal verse in the Garden narrative of Genesis 1–2.

To date, every reading or teaching I have come across will say something about God commanding Adam to work and till the Garden. That’s the problem: that command never happened, at least it is not explicitly recorded in the text. The text simply says that God put the man in the Garden to fulfill two roles: to work and to tend. He did not tell Adam to work and to tend. All that is to say that working and tending were not so much choices that Adam made . . . as much as they were designed into what he was, his function and purpose amidst creation and vitally central to his humanity.

What this boils down to is significant. To be human means that work and environmentalism (creation care) are critical components of being true to what we are. We cannot be fully human without acknowledging and fulfilling these aspects of our created status. How then should that affect our views of consumption, waste, and conservatism?


Filed under Faith

7 responses to “Work, Environmentalism, and Human DNA

  1. kelvinkraft

    Good points and your perspective is the launching board for many of my creation-themed sermons. The Garden [Earth] is both our home and our calling–to care for, nurture and respect. So often we have seen our role as the the consumer only, without realizing that the earth is valuable in itself, whether or not its resources immediate benefit humanity. The flourishing of life on earth means that we flourish also.

    One of my favorite theologians, Sallie McFague, writes:
    “When we accept that we were created by love and for love, that al things come from the overflowing divine abundance and are intended to flourishhrough interdependence with God and others, then we begin to sense what salvation is. We have a new sense of who we are (God’s bleoved) and where we fit into the scheme of things (in the beloved community along with all God’s other creatures.)” p. 21 McFague, Life Abundant

    • Kelvin – Thank you for your comments. You might enjoy looking into a book called Salvation Means Creation Healed by the well-known and widely published author and professor, Dr. Howard Snyder. Howard has been a professor, mentor, and friend of mine for several years. You might also look into, (Ed Brown), and (Dr. Matthew Sleeth), if you are not already familiar with these ministry organizations.



      • kelvinkraft

        Heard Snyder at chapel in seminary and was fully impressed. His book on “Wineskins” has informed and inspired me many times over. Haven’t read the book you noted, but will check it out. The other sources are somewhat familiar, but I will revisit them. Thanks for the sources and encouragement.

  2. Great words and in complete agreement. Please read my updated work on creation care, climate change, and Easter.

    • Mitchell –

      The Evangelical Environmental Network (and have been on my radar for some time. My primary focus in research and writing is not in this area but I have passed along this same notion of environmentalism and human DNA to my good friends, Dr. Howard Snyder (Salvation Means Creation Healed) and Ed Brown (

      Thanks for joining the conversation with me.


      • Howard and Ed are good friends. I would love to learn more of your work and thoughts.

      • The bulk of my work to date is summed up in my book, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (available directly from me in paperback or from in paperback or Kindle). I am working on a second book (working title, From Abundance to Abundance: The Economic Landscape of the Kingdom of God). My focus touches on environmental issues but that is not central to it so I pass along those tidbits of things I find to those with a more concentrated interest. Click here for a fuller description of Eden’s Bridge.

        Please let me know what you think.

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