All God’s gifts are good and given for the benefit of all people. In Genesis 2, God gave Adam four great gifts to enjoy: a day to rest, a place to live, work to do and a wife to love. As all of Adam’s descendants were in him, genetically and spiritually, when he was in Eden, these are God’s gifts for the entire human race.
Living according to God’s instructions
Today we are living in a time when burnout, depression and other forms of mental illness are increasing, especially amongst younger people. According to the Mental Health Foundation website, mental health problems affect around 1 in 10 children and young people. This is a sea change in our culture compared with 50 or even 25 years ago. While the causes are many and varied, one reason is surely that it is never wise to run a machine contrary to the maker’s instructions.
God, our Maker, has given us instructions in his Word as to how we should live our lives. God desires our spiritual and physical well-being and that includes our mental health. Is there a link between rising levels of mental illness in our society today and a loss of the gospel? I believe so. Our culture has moved away from its moorings of Christian principles into the uncharted waters of self-focus, self-seeking and self-pleasing. We have not been following the Maker’s instructions and the results are not hard to discern.
Keeping the Lord’s Day
The first of God’s gifts was given by example: ‘Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done’ (Gen. 2:3).
God himself rested and this is the basis for the fourth commandment given at Sinai to Moses, ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’ (Ex. 20:8).
Since the earliest days of the church, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ have met together on the first day of the week, Sunday, which Scripture calls the Lord’s Day. On the first Lord’s Day, Resurrection Sunday, the disciples met with the risen Lord Jesus. From that Easter Sunday, through 20 centuries of history and all over the world, Christians have met together on the first day of the week.
In Mark’s gospel, the Lord Jesus said, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). As with the other gifts, the day to rest was given for all people everywhere. In keeping the Lord’s Day we are looking after ourselves, our families and the wider community for our communal good and his glory.
The second of God’s gifts to Adam was a beautiful place to live, the Garden of Eden. The third gift was the dignity of meaningful work as Adam was given the job of caring for the garden. Of course, the Garden of Eden in that day had no weeds, thorns nor thistles. These intrusions only arrived after sin and death had entered the world. Gardening before the fall would have been a pleasure! It was after this that it became a difficult chore requiring sweat and toil.
In the first two chapters of the Bible, man was made a steward of the planet and given responsibility to care for it and have dominion over all creation (Gen. 1:26-27). This is relevant in our day as we are paying the price for past irresponsibility in polluting the planet. Adam was instructed to care for his environment and so should we.
Some Christians have seen this mandate to have dominion as a direction to gain understanding of the world that God had made and to use that knowledge for the benefit of all. This has led some to pursue the sciences with just that idea in mind.
The wedding gift
God’s final gift to Adam was his wife: bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. The poetic form of Genesis 2:23 might be Adam bursting into song at the sight of Eve, his newly created bride. Be that as it may, marriage according to the Bible was and remains one of the greatest blessings to individuals and to society. As Christians we should defend and uphold the sanctity of biblical marriage.
It is a great gospel picture of Christ, the bridegroom, and his church, the bride. Just as Adam’s side was opened so that Eve could be created, so our Lord Jesus Christ’s side was opened at the cross where he paid the price in precious blood for his beloved church.
Four great gifts, all vitally important then and today, as in every age of the church. They are important for the individual, for children and families, and for society. Let us enjoy them, uphold them and contend for them.