Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
– Genesis 1:26
Human flourishing is one of the key biblical themes woven throughout the Bible. It explains the goal of God’s redemption for us in Christ, who promises us eternal and abundant life.
The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, provides its own “God-of-Israel-revealed-in-Jesus-Christ” answer to the question of how to flourish.
How then do we begin to distinguish biblical flourishing from both the heretical prosperity gospel and the common cultural idea that “he that dies with the most toys wins”? How can we begin to develop a framework that helps us understand biblical flourishing?
What Human Relationships Mean for Human Flourishing
One place to start is in the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Corbett and Fikkert suggest that a biblical worldview will lead you to understand that poverty is also about broken relationships.
God designed humans to have four types of healthy relationships, all of which were broken at the Fall:
- Relationship with God: This is our primary relationship, from which the other three flow.
- Relationship with self: We have inherent value and dignity because we are created in God’s image.
- Relationship with others: Corbett and Fikkert write, “We are made to know one another, to love one another, and to encourage one another…”.
- Relationship with the rest of creation: We are called to be stewards of creation and sustain ourselves through work.
When these relationships are functioning properly, we experience the fullness of life God intended. When we live out the original purpose of these relationships, people are able to fulfill their callings of loving their neighbor and glorifying God through the work they do in their churches, families, communities, and vocations.
Exercising Creativity and Productivity
We are relational because God is relational. Genesis 1:26 shows us this when it says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” Dick Staub expands on this idea in Relevant, writing in one article that,
The phrase “Let us make man in our image” reveals an “us-ness” in the very nature of God. The very essence of God is relational, and that essential quality has been imprinted on humans. This capacity for a relationship with God extends to humans, which is why the Genesis story declares that God created Eve for Adam because “it is not good for man to be alone.”
The image of God has a profound functional element. From a biblical perspective, flourishing means more than having the opportunity to exercise our God-given creativity and productivity. It means exercising that creativity and productivity responsibly, for the wholeness of creation and the glory of God.
These four relationships – our relationship with God, ourselves, others, and creation – were established by God in the beginning so that we might corporately flourish and bring flourishing to his creation. When sin entered the world these relationships were hopelessly corrupted. It is only through the redemptive work of Christ within us, his people, that these relationships are being restored.
As we will see in my next post, this whole process begins with the restoration of our relationship with God the Creator.
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