When you go on vacation, do you take your tool-box with you, or a briefcase full of books? Adam was supposed to use his head and his hands. His mandate required two different kinds of hard work.
He was instructed to till the ground. And there was a lot of ground to till, for his mandate was to subdue the whole earth. For that he would need generations of descendants and centuries of time. Lots of man-hours of manual labour. Such hard work was necessary before the fall, and will be part of life after the frustrations of the fall have been eliminated. Hard work and hand work is part of who we are as creatures made in the image of God whose handiwork we are, a God who is not ashamed to be known by the work of his hands.
Adam was also instructed to name the animals. This was the beginning of intellectual enquiry. It was far more than “labelling” monkeys and giraffes. It was seeking to understand the nature of the created order with a view to exercising government effectively. He did not just decide to call certain four-legged creatures “horses”; he sought to understand what a horse really was so that this knowledge could be harnessed. He learned that horse-power could be utilized to supplement man-power and thought hard about how to make hard work more efficient. Adam was brain as well as brawn.
Since the task of education is to prepare young people to take their place in the creation mandate in ways that will glorify God and serve the welfare of their fellow creatures, it must be designed to address both facets of Adam’s calling. It is about equipping heads and hands.
In the multiplication of human beings that flowed from Adam’s line, there was intended to be a division of labour. Some would have greater aptitude for heady work; others for handiwork. Some are suited to specialize in intellectual pursuits; some excel in various trades and manual skills. But two things are crucial to recognize:
Firstly: the dual mandate of manual labour and intellectual enquiry is not dualism. There is to be no dichotomy and no hierarchy.
Secondly: Christian Education shares the dual mandate. Our schools must equip young people in both dimensions. In doing so, we must avoid the pitfalls of dualism and dare not elevate academic achievements over practical skills.
Who are our star pupils? Who gets all the awards and accolades? Perhaps the student who has learned how to serve, who has spent unseen hours picking up garbage and cleaning up the messes created by his fellow students is a better candidate than the straight “A” student who has sailed effortlessly through math and physics classes.
Imagine a scenario: Prospective parents ask the Principal, “What are your best graduates doing now?” Reply: “Last year’s top honour student is now working as a garbage man!” This is not necessarily the PR that a school’s marketers want to promote. It may not increase enrolment. But what could be more Christ-like than a servant who picks up other people’s garbage and cleans up their messes? The world needs Christian hands as well as Christian heads. Both are the business of Christian education.