Work and Keep

I try to live my whole life by many principles, but here are the two guiding principles to discuss here and now: Work and Keep*.

The concept for these two ideals can be found in the book of Genesis, chapter 2, when the Lord God takes the man and places him in the garden to, “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15).  These commands are brought up again in the book of Numbers when God is giving various commandments to the Levite priests. On that occasion, he tells the priests that they are to, “guard the furnishings of the tent” as they, “minister before the LORD” (Num. 3:7-8). In both instances the same Hebrew words are used. 

Let’s flesh out these definitions a bit more from the original language:

  • Work (Heb. ‘abad)– serve, toil, labor, plow, cultivate, beautify, industry, build, grow; being a good steward over the things God gives us.
  • Keep (Heb. shamar)- guard, protect, attend to, preserve, sustain, care for; to see to completion the start of something God gives us to work or to sustain the work God gives us.

I think of the ideas of working and keeping as a framework to view life through; they tell me my duties and help me gauge success. I will frequently ask myself, “Am I working, serving, cultivating, building, growing, being industrious?” and “Am I guarding, protecting, sustaining, and tending the things I work, build, etc.?” By taking both together, I stay balanced, progressing, but also conserving; moving forward by working but not leaving my responsibilities behind through keeping. 

Think about these principles and apply them to your own life. What is under your care? Who is under your care? What are you entrusted with? Who are you raising? What do you need to see through to completion? What do you need to start? What do you need to care for? Okay, now that you have taken inventory of all the things that you are called to work and keep, are you succeeding? How are you going to measure success going forward? The work and keep framework might help you there. 

So get out there, take inventory, work, keep, and do better. 


*The inspiration for Work and Keep comes directly from the Bible, but this was shown to me Richard D. Phillips’ book, “The Masculine Mandate.” He teases out the ideas of working and keeping much more in that book.

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