Far too often Christians think, as Dr. Richard Pratt writes in Designed for Dignity,
Jesus came to forgive our sin, make our souls sparkle, to sprinkle us with peace and joy so we can sprout wings when we die, grab a harp and join the eternal choir.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
God has called each of us from death to life, from darkness into his glorious light for a reason (1 Peter 2:9). Part of that reason is what he wants us to accomplish in the here and now. To know what it is God wants us to do with our lives with the time we have, we must go back to where God’s grand story starts—Genesis 1.
The Often Overlooked Story in Genesis 1
Google Genesis 1 and you will get over 200,000,000 hits, most of them dealing with questions like:
- Did God create the world in six ordinary days?
- How should people understand the theory of evolution in light of Genesis 1?
- Were the “days” of Genesis 1 great ages or epochs?
- Are the opening chapters of Genesis to be taken literally?
When Moses wrote the opening chapters of Genesis, he probably was not concerned about these things. Instead, he was trying to prepare God’s people of his day for the mission they were created to fulfill, a mission we as Christians in the 21st century are still called to accomplish.
Regarding this mission, Christopher J. H. Wright, in his book The Mission of God’s People, writes,
When God created the earth, he created human beings in his own image with the express mission of ruling over creation by caring for it—a task modeled on the kingship of God himself. The human mission has never been rescinded, and Christians have not been given some exemption on the grounds that we have other or better things to do.
The author of Genesis is telling his first audience—and us as well—that man’s original calling is found in the creation narrative. The gospel call is a redemptive return to a lost and forfeited calling: to being God’s image bearers in the world (Ps. 8), a calling that has never had anything less than the entirety of God’s original, good creation in view.
Wright puts the issue as clearly and bluntly as possible:
Creation is not just the disposable backdrop to the lives of human creatures who were really intended to live somewhere else, and some day will do so. We are not redeemed out of creation, but as part of the redeemed creation itself—a creation that will again be fully and eternally for God’s glory, for our joy and benefit, forever.
Reflecting Our Creator Through the Work of Our Hands
In the opening verses of Genesis, we see God at work creating the heavens and the earth ex nihilo, out of nothing, and that all he had made was good (Gen. 1). It is clear from this creation story that God delights in the work of his hands.
J.R.R. Tolkien called man, made in the image of God, a “sub-creator” and saw this process of sub-creation as a form of worship, a way for creatures to express the divine image in them by creating something out of something. Through our work, we are called to be creative and productive, imitating our Creator. We should enjoy not only the work of God’s hands but also that of our own.
Work in different forms is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible, more than all the terms used for worship, music, praise, and singing combined. Work is what we were created to do. It is the work we have been called to do even in our daily vocations that sustains the mission for which we were intended.
Os Guinness writes in his classic book, The Call,
The problem with Western Christians is not that they aren’t where they should be, but that they aren’t what they should be where they are.