The Gracious Prohibition of God

June 10, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

In the narrative of Genesis, God has given human beings many positive instructions, either explicitly through commands or implicitly through story. We are to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (1:28). We are to eat the fruit produced by the earth (1:29). We are to “till” and “keep” the garden in which God has put us (2:15). All of these instructions, both the explicit and implicit ones, are positive. They tell us to do certain things, opening up vast areas for discovery, productivity, and delight.

In Genesis 2:16-17, for the first time God gives a negative instruction, a prohibition. The man may “freely eat of every tree of the garden,” except for “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The fruit of this tree is forbidden. Eating it leads to death.

The Generous Provision of God

June 9, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

There is a tendency among readers and scholars of Genesis 2:16-17 to focus on the prohibition of verse 17: “but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” Indeed, this is a crucial limitation and we’ll examine it more closely in tomorrow’s devotion. But, today, I want to pause to consider with you verse 16: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.”

A Fascinating Perspective on Your Work

June 8, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Many of us work without thinking much about it. We were raised to be workers. We were schooled to be workers. We know that work is necessary to pay for food and shelter. Many people in our lives count on us to work. So we work. We work without taking much time to reflect on the nature of our work or how our work relates to God and his intentions for us.

But, increasingly, this unexamined life of work fails to satisfy. Many in my generation (Boomers) are looking for greater significance in life and are wondering how work may or may not be a part of this picture. Folk from younger generations than mine often assume that their work should have value beyond professional success and financial gain. They want work to be personally meaningful and socially beneficial. Thus, people from various generations are thinking about work, what it is, why it is, and how we should do it.

Even More Joy than in Yankee Stadium!

June 7, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

As I mentioned in last Sunday’s Life for Leaders edition, I recently attended my son’s graduation from college. On a bright and breezy day in New York City, my wife and I joined with tens of thousands of other parents to celebrate the accomplishments of our children. They had finished college and were ready to “commence” their new life (at least that’s what we were hoping). In Yankee Stadium, where the ceremony was held, there was abundant joy.

Caring for What God Has Entrusted to You

June 6, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

We have spent the last several days focusing on the first of the tasks that God gave to the man in the garden of Eden. This task, as you recall, is tilling, or, if we render the Hebrew more literally, serving. As tillers in our work, we labor with considerable effort so that the world might produce the fruit God intended.

The second of the tasks specified in Genesis 2:15 is “keeping.” The Hebrew verb translated in the NRSV as “to keep” is shamar. In the Bible, this verb has various meanings, including: “to keep, guard, preserve, observe.” It will be used in the next chapter of Genesis to describe the action of the cherubim who “guard” the way to the tree of life, keeping human beings out of Eden (Gen 3:24). The sense of shamar in 2:15 is captured well by the CEB rendering, where God places the man in Eden “to take care of it.”

Why Work?

June 5, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

The “Why work?” question was once answered in a striking manner by Dorothy Sayers, the influential, twentieth-century English writer. In 1942, she gave a lecture that was later published with the simple title, “Why Work?” (You can find this piece, with many other fine resources, at the website of the Center for Faith & Work of LeTourneau University.) Sayers’ answer to this question was a reaction, in part, to those in the church who devalued work, seeing it as second-class service to God, or seeing its value only in how it helps the community. Sayers contended that the work itself matters, that it can be a means for people to honor God.

Serving, Laboring, Worshiping through Our Daily Work

June 4, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we saw how the first chapters of Genesis begin to paint a picture of servant leadership. Human beings are to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28) and also to “serve” the earth (Gen 2:15, translating the Hebrew verb ‘avad more literally than “till”).

There are fascinating implications of the use of ‘avad in this verse. I don’t mean to suggest that the original writer consciously anticipated all of these. But as we reflect upon the nuances of ‘avad, we discover truths about our work and leadership that are quite striking.

There are fascinating implications of the use of ‘avad in this verse. I don’t mean to suggest that the original writer consciously anticipated all of these. But as we reflect upon the nuances of ‘avad, we discover truths about our work and leadership that are quite striking.

Servant Leadership in Genesis 1-2

June 3, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Ever since Robert Greenleaf’s essay “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970, the notion of servant leadership has been bandied around in leadership circles. Many prominent leaders have been proponents of servant leadership, including Howard E. Butt, Jr. in The Velvet Covered Brick and Max De Pree in Leadership Is an Art. But the idea of servant leadership goes back much further in time. Not only did Jesus teach a form of servant leadership (Mark 10:35-45), but also this idea can be found all the way back in the opening chapters of Genesis.

The Leader as Tiller: Defining Reality

June 2, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider how we might be tillers in our work. Most of us do not literally till the soil, of course. But there is an aspect of tilling in many jobs, especially in leadership positions. Even as tilling the soil prepares it for planting, growth, and fruitfulness, so tilling is our work of preparing, planning, and prioritizing. Tilling is fostering a corporate culture in which people can flourish in their work.

How Can you Be a Tiller?

June 1, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

One of my favorite sections of Home Depot is the power garden tool department. Even though I have all the tools I need, I still like browsing through Home Depot’s collection of power mowers, chainsaws, and string trimmers (better known as “weed whackers”). Among all of those machines you can find some power tillers. These tools look rather like lawnmowers, but in place of horizontal blades that cut grass they have vertical blades that cut and turn up the soil. In a word, they till.

What Tells You You’re Wonderful?

May 31, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

I recently attended my son’s graduation from New York University. Because so many students graduate from NYU’s many schools each year, the ceremony took place in Yankee Stadium. There, tens of thousands of people gathered to acknowledge those who had completed their course of study. Speaker after speaker told them how talented they are, how filled with potential, how wonderful.

What is Our Purpose? Take Two

May 30, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

A couple of weeks ago, we considered the question: What is our purpose as human beings? Genesis 1:28 provided an answer based on God’s command: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . . .” This so-called “cultural mandate” suggests that our purpose is to make, shape, and steward culture, that is, to take the “good stuff” of this world and make more “good stuff.”

Today, we’ll begin to consider the question of our purpose as human beings from a different perspective.