Woman sitting in garden.

God Designed Us to Partner with Him

As we come to back to the story of creation we find a remarkable truth: the Creator God not only created humankind to be his creatures, but also to be his partners in the creative process of causing the world to flourish. In Genesis chapter one we find a summary of the six days of creation. In chapter two, we find a little more detail about day six. After describing the creation of the man and the garden (vv. 7-14), verse 15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.”

God could have created the garden to be self-sustaining with no need for care, but He didn’t. Instead he created humans to “work” the garden and to “take care” of the garden with the idea of making it flourish. Verse 5 sheds an interesting light on this: “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 one to work the ground.” To answer this need, the following verses talk about the creation of Adam, the garden, and the reason for the creation of Adam, being “to work it (the garden) and take care of it (the garden).” Remember after God created male and female in His image, Gen 1:28 says, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’

I wonder if, while God had finished all the work He was going to do, all the work He wanted done was not yet finished. Creation was “good” (actually “very good” – Gen 1:31) but not yet complete. I wonder if perhaps what God is saying to Adam is, “Here is what I’ve made (the garden) and it’s very good. Now you go and make the rest of the world look like this.”

Then, of course, we have the creation of Eve to join Adam. Join him to do what? Join him to “be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it, work the garden and take care of the garden.” To partner with God by taking what God had created in the garden and making the rest of the world look like that. Cause it to flourish and to be beautiful, providing for the needs of every human who would subsequently be born into it.

Now, we know sin enters in Genesis 3 and makes God’s charge a lot more difficult than it was originally intended to be, but does it do away with God’s initial design and charge to humankind? I don’t think so. I think the same charge is given to each of us today, to partner with God to cause our “garden” to be fruitful and multiply, to work it and take care of it and cause it to flourish so the needs of humanity are met.

Is that why Paul, speaking to “workers” in Colossians 3:23-24, says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”   I can’t tell you the number of times over 38 years of serving on a church staff, people have said to me something like, “I wish I was in the Lord’s work.” I finally started responding by saying, “Why aren’t you?”

According to Col. 3:23-24 you actually are “in the Lord’s work” if you are a follower of Christ. He is your boss no matter your job. Granted, there are some ways of making money in this world that could never be seen as glorifying to God and should be avoided by Christians. But if you are a follower of Jesus, there is no sacred-secular divide. The job you do that produces flourishing for your family and other people, as a result of the great economic network we are all part of, is to be done for the glory of God according to 1 Cor. 10:31.

What is your garden?

With what have you been entrusted by God?

For what are you responsible to “tend and care” so that it will be “fruitful and multiply” for the glory of God?

About Jim Hislop

Jim Hislop is the Director of Western Seminary's Center for Leadership Development.

4 thoughts on “God Designed Us to Partner with Him

  1. Amazing insight. I love the picture of God’s intention in Genesis 2 prior to sin. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Anthony. Most of those thoughts come from others that I have been reading and listening to for the past year. It has been so refreshing to consider this great text of scripture from a new perspective.

    Jim Hislop

  3. Good post, Jim. However, I must object to the term “partner” for the believer’s relationship with God. I think it is inappropriate, even disrespectful, when used in many churches today.

    The use of the term “partner with God” brings an air of equality, even entitlement, which is totally wrong. Looking around in the church, one can see the outworking of this. IMO, the use of the term leads people in a completely wrong direction in their attitude towards the Lord. You may say that I am making something of nothing, but my observation across a number of churches would indicate otherwise. Mores the pity…

    Colossians 3:23-24 says, “…as working for the Lord” not “as working with the Lord”. The difference in implications is monumental. Working “for” is a position of subservience, service and obedience, not partnership.

    With the implications of “partnership” in contemporary society, encouraging believers and adherents to view their relationship with Lord in that way does them a great diss-service.

    1. Thanks for your response Ken and I can certainly see how the word “partner” could be understood in the business sense of the word to imply equality of contribution and I would agree that would be inappropriate. I think there are other ways the word “partner” can be understood however. Peter in 2 Pet. 1:4 uses a word that is translated “partner” in other places as partaker (NAS) or participate (NIV) in the divine nature. Perhaps “participant with God” communicates more the idea that I was seeking to convey.

      I do think it’s more than raw obedience to God as an animal might obey its master. One of the great lies that has been perpetrated on us by science is the idea that humans are the highest form of animal. The Genesis account makes it clear that humans are much more than that. That we were created in the image of God, unlike any animal. That we were given a mandate by God far greater than just “reproducing after our own kind”.

      There is an old sermon illustration that talks about the man complimenting the farmer on the beauty of his fields and flowers by saying, “Will you look at what you and God have done to this land.” To which the farmer replied, “You should have seen it before I did my part.” I don’t think he was being disrespectful of God by saying that, but I do think he was acknowledging that it wasn’t just God (which of course it could have been, i.e. the Garden of Eden) and it wasn’t just him. It’s God who calls us and enables us but we choose to participate or not in the process of causing our garden to flourish. That’s the sense I meant by the use of the word partner.

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