What Do You Do?” An Echo of Genesis 2

from Jun 26, 2013 Category: Articles

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)

Have you noticed that, almost every time, the second subject that comes up when two men meet involves work? I sit next to a man on an airplane, and what does he ask? “What’s your name?” I answer, “I’m Rick Phillips.” The next question is amazingly consistent: “What do you do?” How we answer tells people what to think of us.

There are a number of ways I can answer the question. I can say, “I’m an author,” in which case the man thinks I’m an interesting person with lots of insight. Or I can say, “I’m an educator.” Then he thinks I’m a person with specialized knowledge, and he questions me further to find out what that area of knowledge is. If I say, “I’m a preacher,” he starts looking out the window, afraid I’m going to hassle him about his sins. (Usually, the answer I choose to give depends on whether I am interested in talking or not.) The point is that the answer to “What do you do?” tells people most of what they want to know about a man.

In a world in which God has called men to work, this should not be surprising. Do you see the theological tie-back here? In this mundane example, we catch a glimmer of the profundity of Scripture, the kind of glimmer we notice all the time if we’re paying attention. The simple who-is-this-guy conversations we have with strangers are not random events. They sprout from the theology of work and calling rooted in the garden and recorded in Genesis 2.

This is a brief excerpt from Richard Phillips’ book, The Masculine Mandate. Until June 30, 2013, download the eBook edition for free.

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