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News & Articles > Biblical Principles of Economics: Part 2

Human Responsibility
25 Feb 2009

This article first appeared in The Home Instructor newsletter published by
Gary & Wanda Sanseri, Jan/Feb 1991


When God created man He took him and “put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The Lord further commanded the man to eat freely of every tree in the garden with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). From these verses we learn that man was created with the responsibility to work, enjoy the liberality of God’s provision and explicitly obey the Lord.


From the very beginning human labor has been an essential part of God’s economic plan for the benefit of man. God created man for industry: Not for idleness. Adam’s responsibility included the careful maintenance of the garden in which the Lord had placed him. For Adam, life was not simply sitting around and eating of the bountiful provision of God as Henry Morris notes, “Even in the perfect world as God made it, work was necessary for man’s good. The ideal world is not one of idleness and frolic, but one of serious activity and service.”(1)

We cannot comprehend the blissful working conditions Adam must have experienced in his sinless state. John Calvin noted in his commentary on the book of Genesis that, “this labor, truly, was pleasant, and full of delight, entirely exempt from all trouble and weariness.”(2) Imagine experiencing a trouble free day at work. No problems with fellow workers. No equipment breakdowns. No troublesome weeds to pull. No fights with the boss. No traffic jams on the way to work. Adam’s working experience must have truly been paradise.

If perfect Adam was expected to work then how much more should we, as sinners, or as sinners declared righteous by Christ, be diligent in performing our duty to provide for our own and labor as unto the Lord (1 Timothy 5:8; Colossians 3:23). With the growth of the “Welfare State” it has become easy for people living in America to become idle and receive a reward for their slothfulness. No longer is the sluggard condemned for his laziness, but he is rather encouraged to come to the public trough for a regular feeding. We refuse to speak out against such abuse of public funds because some day we all hope to feast at the government’s table.

The Apostle Paul admonished the lazy Thessalonian believers that, “if anyone will not work neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). There is no room for idleness in the household of God. Any man professing to be a Christian, who lives a disorderly life, not working at all, should be admonished to “work in quietness and eat his own bread.”

Liberal Provision

God liberally provided for Adam a variety of food for his enjoyment. Man’s diet was not restricted to simply one fruit or vegetable, but God generously gave the man of every tree in the garden. Concerning this great abundance Henry Morris notes that man, “was free to eat of any tree of the garden… as much as he wanted. He could also eat of any ‘herb’ he wanted (Genesis 1:29). There was not even any restriction against eating of the fruit of ‘the tree of life.’”(3)

Today, we understand that God still provides for the needs of mankind. The Psalmist declared the liberality of God in these words:

“The Lord upholds all who fall,
And raises up all those who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look expectantly to you,
And you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
(Psalm 145:14-16)

The Lord Jesus illustrated how God feeds and cares for the birds of the air and then stated that man is of more value than animals (Matthew 6:26). The obvious conclusion is that God will provide for the needs of man. For the unbeliever this is a hard statement. He points to all the starvation in the world and concludes there is no God who provides for man’s needs. The skeptic fails to see that most famines and hunger today comes, not by natural causes, but by tyrannical governments practicing economic control over their citizens. People are not free to work hard and enjoy the liberal provision of God. The state becomes god and takes over the responsibility of being the “great liberal provider.” Such bureaucratic domination ends in famine, poverty and starvation.


The Lord, God commanded the man, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). This law constituted the only exception to man’s freedom to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden. While man exercised dominion over the earth and ate freely from the fruit of the garden, he was to remember his subjection to God.

Calvin suggests that, “the prohibition of one tree was a test of obedience. And in this mode, God designed that the whole human race should be accustomed from the beginning to reverence his Deity…. Abstinence from the fruit of one tree was a kind of first lesson in obedience, that man might know he had a Director and Lord of his life, on whose will he ought to depend, and in whose commands he ought to acquiesce.”(4)


Man is responsible to follow God’s legislation. For Adam this meant refusing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For us it means adherence to the whole counsel of God as directed in Scripture. Matthew Henry gives an appropriate exhortation. “Let us acknowledge God’s right to rule us, and our own obligations to be ruled by him; and never allow any will of our own in contradiction to, or competition with, the holy will of God.”(5)

In part three we will discuss Adam’s failure to keep the law of God. His disobedience plunged mankind into a state of sin. Part of the consequences of sin is economic chaos.


1. Henry Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976), p. 92.
2. John Calvin, Genesis (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), p. 125.
3. Morris, p. 93.
4. Calvin, p. 126.
5. Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. 1 Genesis to Deuteronomy (Iowa Falls, Iowa: Not Date), p.17.

©2009, Gary Sanseri