At Work & Theology 101

We Are What We Do: The Cultural Mandate (Part 3)

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Yesterday, we talked about our job description given to us in the very beginning of Creation – the Cultural Mandate.  It’s a call to steward creation, a call given not just to Adam and Eve but to us as well. This job description gives us purpose and direction in our vocations. It also is a reflection of our identity, as creatures made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27).

As beings made in God’s image, we are meant to “image” God, that is, to reflect Him. Being made in the image of God refers not only to who we are but also to what we are created to do. We are called not just to work but to do certain tasks to achieve a definite goal.

Genesis 1:28 commands us to be fruitful, increase, fill, subdue, and rule.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

These five commands reveal our most basic human responsibilities. In his book Designed for Dignity: What God Has Made It Possible for You to Be, my friend Richard Pratt explains:

It was Gods design that people build an earthly culture for his glory. This Cultural Mandate involves two basic responsibilities: multiplication and dominion. First God gave Adam and Eve a commission to multiply: Be fruitful … increase … fill. Their job was to produce enough images of God to cover the earth. Second, God ordered them to exercise dominion over the earth: Fill … subdue … rule. Adam and Eve were to exercise authority over creation, managing its vast resources on God’s behalf. Needless to say, these two mandates cannot be entirely separated from each other. . . . Nonetheless, from the beginning these two sides of the Cultural Mandate were to be our main tasks in life.

How do we summarize the Cultural Mandate in a practical, more workable manner? The late D. James Kennedy in his book, “What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?” offers the following definition:

We are to take all the potentialities of this world, all of its spheres and institutions, and bring them all to the glory of God. We are to use this world to the glory of God. We are to bring it and surrender it at the foot of the Cross. In every aspect of the world, we are to bring glory to God and this means in all of the institutions of the world.

These first two chapters of Genesis provide a foundation for God’s view of culture and man’s responsibility in it.

So, at this point, I suspect that reading Biblical commands to “take dominion over the earth” and “to subdue and rule over creation” are confusing, especially as it applies to your vocation today. What does that actually look like? In the coming days, we will look at these topics more closely so that you can better discern what the Cultural Mandate is, and what it’s not.

Question: What are the questions you have related to the Cultural Mandate so far? Leave a comment.

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