Yesterday we discussed the image of God and some of its implications for our lives. Today I’ll dive deeper into what being made in the image of God means for our work and vocation.
Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that the first task to which image bearers are called is to “rule over” the creation. God is the King, but we are the vice-regents. He is the Creator, but we are sub-creators.
Only God can create something out of nothing, but we can, and are called to, create something out of something. We can take clay and make a pot or a statue. We can take wood and make a chair, a door, or a house. We can take metal and make a musical instrument.
We participate with God in creativity. Different people are given different gifts, but all are called to use creativity in developing their callings and carrying out their work.
The kind of rulership, dominion, or creativity we are to exercise is not to be something heavy handed. Some atheists and New Age adherents have said that this call to dominion has given Christians the right to rape and pillage the earth.
To the contrary, Genesis 2:15 indicates that mankind was placed in the Garden “to care for and keep” it. It almost seems here, in the way it is stated, that man was made for the Garden rather than the Garden for man. At least, the mandate here is not to use and abuse, but to exercise caring stewardship over the created realm. Creativity is to be demonstrated in order to develop a beautiful and productive garden.
This creativity called for in Genesis 1:26-28 was carried on after the Fall into sin. Genesis 4:21-22 records that very soon after the Fall people were making musical instruments and many things from bronze and iron.
Despite the fall, people – both believers and unbelievers – demonstrated creativity in using their various gifts. John Calvin says in his Institutes:
But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us accordingly learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good.
Creativity shines through no matter the spiritual condition of mankind. Calvin even attributes this ongoing creativity to the work of the Spirit in the lives of human beings. In his commentary on Genesis, he says:
For the invention of the arts, and of other things which serve to the common use and convenience of life, is a gift from God by no means to be despised…as the experience of all ages teaches us how widely the rays of divine light have shone on unbelieving nations, for the benefit of the present life; and we see at the present time that the excellent gifts of the Spirits are diffused throughout the whole human race.
Common grace allows that all human beings experience some amount of significance in their lives, as each one of us uses our God-given creativity and gifts.
God’s purpose through human creativity is to move from a garden to a city. Human gifts and creativity are to be expressed in building increasingly complex houses, buildings, walls, roads, and other creations.
Genesis starts in a garden but ends in the Holy City in Revelation 21-22. The Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden appears in the midst of the Holy City of God.
Creativity has produced lasting works that will be brought into the new heavens and new earth. Revelation 21 states this twice (with “it” referring to the new heavens and the new earth):
1. Revelation 21:24: “The kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it.”
2. Revelation 21:26: “They shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.”
What is this glory and honor of the nations? It has to be something that distinctively comes from the nations that expresses glory and honor.
This probably means the best of humanity’s diverse creative works, the best products that people from the nations have created. Perhaps the best artistic works, the best of our engineering, and the best of other human endeavors will be for us to enjoy for all eternity.
Are you answering the call to creativity? How can the knowledge that our best works last for eternity change the way you work today? Leave your comments here.