At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

What the Cultural Mandate Means for Your Work

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When you tried to figure out what to do with your life, I bet you didn’t go to the book of Genesis for direction. But as we’ve been seeing in these past few posts on the Cultural Mandate, God’s first job description for humankind still holds true for our lives today as Christians. But what does that have to do with our vocational calling, our work?

Let’s listen to how some Christian leaders today are thinking through this:

Author Richard Pratt in Designed for Dignity claims that “God ordained humanity to be the primary instrument by which his kingship will be realized on earth.”  Here’s his down-to-earth description of how the Cultural Mandate works:

The Great King has summoned each of us into his throne room. Take this portion of my kingdom, he says, I am making you my steward over your office, your workbench, your kitchen stove. Put your heart into mastering this part of my world. Get it in order; unearth its treasures; do all you can with it. Then everyone will see what a glorious King I am. That’s why we get up every morning and go to work. We don’t labor simply to survive, insects do that. Our work is an honor, a privileged commission from our great King. God has given each of us a portion of his kingdom to explore and to develop to its fullness.

Nancy Pearcey, in Total Truth, expands on our working definition by describing the relationship between the Cultural Mandate and work:

The lesson of the Cultural Mandate is that our sense of fulfillment depends on engaging in creative, constructive work. The ideal human existence is not eternal leisure or an endless vacation—or even a monastic retreat into prayer and meditation—but creative effort expended for the glory of God and the benefit of others. Our calling is not just to “go to heaven” but also to cultivate the earth, not just to “save souls” but also to serve God through our work. For God himself is engaged not only in the work of salvation but also in the work of preserving and developing His creation. When we obey the Cultural Mandate, we participate in the work of God himself.

Finally, Andy Crouch in his book, Culture Making, adds to our understanding of a working definition of the Cultural Mandate by suggesting that we are called to imitate God by creatively making culture:

…it is not just nature that is God’s gift to humanity. Culture is a gift as well. In the biblical view culture is not simply something we have made up on our own — God was the first gardener, the first culture maker. As in Genesis 1, he asks us not to do something fundamentally different but rather to imitate him — in Genesis 1, to imitate his creativity and gracious dominion over the creation, and here in Genesis 2, to imitate him by cultivating the initial gift of a well-arranged garden, a world where intelligence, skill and imagination have already begun to make something of the world.

To find satisfaction and meaning in our vocational callings we must begin to understand the importance of the Cultural Mandate.  It is the only way to see our work in a truly Biblical framework.

Through the lens of the Cultural Mandate we will finally see our work as “the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.” (Dorothy Sayers, Unpopular Opinions)

Question: How does understanding the Cultural Mandate impact the way you view your own work? Leave a comment here.

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  • Hugh, I’m not a Presbyterian, but I appreciate the Reformed tradition’s emphasis on how we are to engage in society.

  • GK

    Hugh, I’m Eastern Orthodox and I also appreciate the Reformed tradition’s emphasis on the cultural mandate. I have a Dutch Reformed friend and I told him I think God will use this to bless all churches through the reformed tradition. Thank you, in Christ, Yorgos

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