“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”1
I don’t know how you might have imagined life in the Garden of Eden. Were Adam and Eve comfortably stretched out in hammocks enjoying the sights and smells of the beautiful garden? Did they only need to lift a finger when plucking a piece of fruit from a nearby tree when their hunger struck? I mean, this was paradise right? Surely all Adam and Eve were required to do was kick back, relax and enjoy life.
“Eden certainly is not a paradise in which man passes his time in idyllic and uninterrupted bliss with absolutely no demands on his daily schedule.”2
Man was Created to Work.
God placed man in the garden. But for what purpose? “To work it and keep it.”3
Your initial reaction may be to brush off this concept of work delegated to Adam and Eve as some mere ho-hum slow morning walk, simply observing the flowers that were in bloom. After all, people garden for recreation right? Even elderly people garden. So is it even fair to describe gardening as “work”?
Try telling that to a landscaper. Or an arborist. And especially a farmer.
Now that’s work. Hard manual labor at its finest.
It was no accident that upon creation of man, God didn’t place him in a cubicle complete with a desktop computer to perform data entry and programming (Yes, this is still “work”, but more on that later…). No, instead, after man was created, he was immediately put to the task of manual labor.
And this was good.4
Work wasn’t a result of the Fall. There is nothing inherently evil about work. After the Fall it became necessary not only for man to work, but to work hard. “God placed Adam in the garden and put him to work. Therefore, because God is good and has chosen to be glorified through our labor, we are able to enjoy work and find a significant part of our identity in it.”5
Work = Exercise
Alright. I know that equation takes quite the mathematical leap. But try and follow my feeble logic here…
Exercise is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
And some work clearly produces similar effects of exercise (increased muscle tone, oxygen uptake, balance, etc).
Our ancestors didn’t need to think about exercise because their entire day required exercise. Man didn’t need to schedule out his exercise sessions over the week. There was no gym membership, because there was no gym! The demand of man’s fitness was intentionally woven into his very nature. He was made to work. He was made to exercise.
It wasn’t until the industrial revolution arrived on the scene in the last half of the eighteenth century, that a variety of machines began to replace many of the daily movements and activities that were so common in the life of an individual.
Value of Exercise
Exercise, though not commanded, is commended: “…bodily training is of some value…”6 While the biblical data may not explicitly mandate exercise, it is positively affirmed. Since exercise has value, we should want to do the very things that God calls valuable. Scripture may not demand fitness, but we can all recognize bodily exercise as something that is normal, wise, and good. The benefits of exercise are vast.
Exercise in Paradise
Will we exercise in heaven? It’s possible. Our reward, in one respect, will be the capacity for increased work alongside our Lord. Don’t assume our work will be free of perspiration and the use of our muscles to move and perform certain tasks.
So don’t think of exercise as a burden. After all, you were created for it. Exercise was good. Is good. And will be good, on into eternity.
Next time you’re contemplating exercise, remember…You were made for this!
1 Genesis 1:15
2 Hamilton 171
3While the word translated “work” may also be rendered “serve.” Consequently some scholars have come to identify this statement as a reference to spiritual service to God. However, there is no denying there would have been an implied physical component involved.
4 Genesis 1:31
5 Richards 18
6 1 Timothy 4:8