A Helper for What?
Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.
The word “helper” often brings with it the connotation of a rather lowly place in our world. Whether it is a chef’s helper in a restaurant or mommy’s helper in the kitchen, being a helper is not something many of us aspire to. Yet the word “helper” in the original creation account in Genesis tells quite a different story—one of immense importance and contribution to the world of work.
In Genesis chapter 2, we are introduced more fully to humankind’s place within the created order. Integral to God’s creation design for his good world was a unique creature that would reflect his image in and through the work of his hands. We read “there was no man to work the ground.” So God, as the brilliant and master architect, creates Adam with a particular work in mind for which his intellectual acumen and physical embodiment are perfectly suited. God plants a garden and then places Adam in the garden and gives his crown of creation a job description of cultivating and protecting the garden.
In Genesis 1, God has repeatedly said his creation is good, but in Genesis 2 we are surprised by God’s pronouncement that something is not good. In verse 18 of chapter 2, God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” But why is that so? Clearly Adam by himself could not reflect the three-in-one community of Trinitarian love, but the context here suggests that Adam’s aloneness also had a vocational deficiency. Adam needed a helper, but a helper for what? The immediate context hints to the truth that more hands were needed to cultivate and protect the garden. God says, “I will make a helper fit for him.” The animals paraded before Adam, and his subsequent naming of them served to cement humankind’s dominion within the created order, but also their unsuitability to cultivate and protect the garden.
God then builds to order Adam’s perfect partner. As an equal to Adam, Eve is created with work in mind too. Adam rightly goes a bit bonkers when God presents him with such a marvelous helper. Genesis 2 ends with the first marriage and the first home established. God created an intimate partnership devoted to both sexual procreativity and vocational productivity. God created work not merely as a solitary endeavor, but a cooperative one. As image bearers, we have a high calling of being helpers to others in the good work we are called to do in the world.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How are you being a helper to others in your vocational calling? In what ways can you come alongside and vocationally assist others God has placed in your life and workplace? Are you more focused on your position at work than on your service to others in your work? Is your heart delighting where God has placed you and in whom you have been called to serve with a basin and towel?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you have created me to be a helper to others. May I seek ways to add value and blessing to others' work and not just my own tasks today. Holy Spirit, the One whom Jesus called The Helper, empower me to joyfully serve my coworkers, clients, customers, and family members. Lord Jesus, give me a basin-and-towel heart so I can serve as your apprentice. Grant me wisdom and insight to know how I can best help others in establishing the work of their hands. Amen.
P.S. From Mark Roberts: Tom is senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas. He is the author of several books, including one of the finest books I have ever read on faith and work, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. Tom, whom I have had the privilege of meeting at Laity Lodge, is a man of deep faith and wisdom. I'm delighted to welcome him as this week's "guest reflector," and I commend his reflections to you with enthusiasm. - Mark Roberts
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.