In our mid-week Study/Pot-luck extraordinaire at Living Hope Church, we have been studying the topic of work, more specifically, the work for which God made us. When you look at Scripture with this topic in mind, there is a rich and varied theology of work from literally the first to the last page of Scripture. One of those "book-end" details is a tree that shows up both at the beginning of the human story and at the end. When God plants the garden he puts in it a Tree of Life. Then humanity is given the responsibility to tend to the garden. Then, at the end of history as we know it, God's children are re-gathered in a city in which is planted, you guessed it, the Tree of Life.
Genesis 2:9 "And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
Revelation 22:2 "...also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
We begin in a garden, are given the task of cultivating it, and we end up in a city. A lot has been said about the significance of this move, but I find it provocative to pull Socrates into the discussion. Biblically speaking, the garden we are given by God is cultivated by the gifts and resources he gave each of us and the resources he embedded in creation. We work, as God's under-creators, and turn his gift into a city, which is from a certain point of view, the collection of a multitude of trades each laboring for the good of the city. This is, basically, how Socrates described the city in Plato's Republic. Each trade is engaged in for the betterment of individuals and families, but also have the larger purpose of building the just city.
Biblically, humans are creative and productive because they are created in the image of a God who is creative and productive. We take the things God provided for us, we employ our gifts and trades for the good of ourselves and our neighbors, and we build a city. And then, finally, when God rules all in all, that city (that collection of human productivity in the virtues of Christ) becomes the perfect city - the City of God.