The Importance of Vocation – page 4


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From the Summer 2018 issue of Knowing & Doing:

The Importance of Vocation

by Mark R. Talbot, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wheaton College

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  This clarifies why God made humankind. How does it do so? By rendering an important nuance of Hebrew grammar with the words so that.6 Those words tell us that when God declared He would make humankind, He specified their task: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” In other words, we were created to do the work of ruling. This is the human vocation, the universal human vocation, the vocation of each and every human being – that is, “the responsibility of an individual or group” – more explicitly, of every individual and group – “to serve the divine purposes in every condition, work, or relationship of life : one’s obligations and responsibilities (as to others) under God.”
  Genesis 2:5 reiterates this when it says: “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no [man] to work the ground” (NIV). This verse’s word for indicates that we are being given the reason why there were not yet any shrubs or plants. It is because “the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no [man] to work the ground.” The shrubs and plants had not yet appeared because the man, who was to work the ground, was not yet created. Hans Walter Wolff comments that “labour appears as the only definition of man’s proper significance” in this verse.7 Henri Blocher notes that when God made the first man, He “did not cast [him] into the desert or into the jungle, but showed kindness to him by taking care of him and by adding to the gift of being and life an abundance of good things for his happiness.” Yet he adds that when the LORD “bestows gifts on those He wishes to love as His sons, He takes good care not to turn them into spoilt children” by giving them responsibilities. So Eden was “‘no fairyland, no Utopia’; the man [received] a charge to fulfil in that place.” As soon as He made him, God “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15).
  Work is thus essential to human life. Indeed, a human life without work “could not be a complete life; it would be an existence quite unworthy” of human beings.8 God “put [the] man into a garden,” Claus Westermann remarks; “the garden and the land there [needed] to be worked; the land [was] entrusted to [the] man, who [was] both capable and industrious.” God’s task gave Adam’s life meaning – meaning supplied not by Adam but by God. Human life is not intrinsically meaningful. Its meaning – no matter whether someone acknowledges this or not – comes from God.9 Work “is part of human existence because the living space which [God] has assigned to his people demands [their] work.” And thus “God-given human existence follows a pattern of duty. Human existence cannot have meaning or fulfillment without such obligation.” The world requires our labor to complete it. And so the work of ruling that God assigned to Adam and Eve fundamentally shapes who God has created us to be.10


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