Leading up to this post, a valid objection that could be leveled at what I’m proposing is that all of my arguments are based on events that occurred prior to the Fall in Genesis 3. It could be argued that whatever purpose God originally had for us, our expulsion from His presence and the entrance of sin into the world has radically changed, if not destroyed, the image of God in us. Thus, the human purpose of family and work, while God’s original intention, is no longer possible in a post-Genesis 3 world. However, while the Fall certainly introduced tremendous strain on God’s original purpose for humanity, sin has not eradicated the image of God in us, nor has it forced God to abandon His original design and default to a plan b. A close look at how God curses the man and woman after the Fall confirms this.

Genesis 3:16-19 reads,

“To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’”

The most important thing to realize here is that, while death is certainly the most severe penalty for the Fall, it’s not the central aspect of this text. Rather, the focus here is that the penalty for Adam and Eve’s sin is for God to curse their purpose. Notice that God’s punishment of Eve, in v. 16, is explicitly to introduced agonizing pain into childbirth. Further, God also introduces disunity to the relationship between her and her husband. In other words, God curses the human purpose in family. Their purpose in marriage and procreation is not eradicated outright, but rather, great hardship and pain is now introduced as a reality inside the family unit.

Likewise, God’s punishment of Adam is explicitly to curse the ground and thereby introduce pain and hardship into his work. In sweat and toil, Adam will work all his life until the day he dies. While human purpose in work has not been destroyed, it none the less stands cursed by God.

This raises another question, namely, “why did God punish in this way?”. Why is it that God cursed our purpose rather than retracting it all together? I think the answer may be that by punishing in this way, God, who is love, sets into motion a means by which humanity may return to Him in repentance in faith. Because of God’s curse, humanity now lives in a void. We still exist in God’s image, still are His representatives, but we are now banished from the presence. However, we still seek out the things that we innately know are supposed to bring us purpose, but only to find that these things don’t satisfy. Our family life is often filled with the literal pain of childbirth and the emotional pain of arguments and divorce. Likewise, we look to work and occupations for meaning, only to find them difficult or overwhelming or just plain boring. In the end, we so often find that they are all together unfulfilling.

Untethered from God, we cannot be the image bearers we are meant to be. We cannot be the presence of the God when it is from His presence we are exiled. Thus, our family and work lack the priestly or royal purpose that gives it meaning. However, I would propose that it is in this void that God might call us to Himself. Knowing deep down that we are made for something more and yearning for purpose, we turn to the things we inherently know are supposed to give us meaning. Yet, when these things, family and work, fail to satisfy, we are left broken, wondering if there truly is meaning in this world. Further, because we are made in the image of God, we also innately know where we must go to fix this.[1] Through the effective call of God, we might turn to Him, and in repentance and faith, kneel before His throne. Through faith in Christ, our relationship with God might be reconciled, and through it, our purpose as well.

Next, in part 7, I will look toward the New Testament and how the coming of the Messiah intersects with this theme of human purpose.


[1] Though, Romans 1:18 tell us that, outside God’s mercy and Spirit opening our eyes, we will suppress this innate knowledge in unrighteousness.