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.

Can We Know the World and Still Love It?

May 29, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders edition, we were encouraged not to miss the beauty of this world that God built in from the beginning. As you read that devotion, you may have felt a bit uncomfortable. A nagging question may have troubled your soul: How can we delight in the beauty of creation when the world is so filled with injustice, suffering, and brokenness?

Don’t Miss the Beauty

May 28, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Years ago, my family and I visited Sequoia National Park in California. The highlight of this trip was seeing the Giant Sequoia redwoods, after which the park is named. These trees are awe-inspiring, both for their beauty and their size. The largest redwood in the national park is the General Sherman tree, which towers above the forest at 275 feet in height. It is also 25 feet in diameter, with an estimated age over 2500 years. As my family and I ambled among the giant redwoods, drinking in their exceptional elegance, I noticed a teenaged boy walking along with his family. His eyes were transfixed, not by the trees, but rather by his Game Boy device.

The Double Gift of Beauty

May 27, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

According to Genesis 2:9, God made “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we considered the ordering of this account, noting the priority of “pleasant to the sight.” Today, I want to reflect a bit more on this phrase.

The Striking Priority of Beauty

May 26, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

I’ve been reading the Bible for fifty years. I’ve read and studied Genesis 2 at least thirty times: in my personal devotions, while preparing for preaching, and in my grad school Hebrew class. I have poured over every word of this chapter time and again.

Today, I saw something new in this text. I’d never seen it before. Once again, I’ve experienced the fathomless depth of Scripture. I’m eager to share with you what I’ve learned. I will do so beginning in today’s devotion.