Ephesians 6: 7 (NLT)
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Genesis 1: 26-28; 2: 15
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.’
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
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.’…
… The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
“God is an artist, a designer, a creative . . .
He’s an engineer, a builder . . .
An ecologist, a zoologist, an expert in horticulture . . .
A musician, a poet . . .
A king, a shepherd . . .
But above all, he’s a worker, and a vigorous one at that.”
(John Mark Comer)
By the time I turned 21 I had worked for Woolworths, Wellworths, Dunnes, Next, Levi's Store, BHS, and Coca-Cola. Following my university studies I worked in sales, marketing and public relations both in the States and Ireland, finishing up as a Key Account Manager with the multinational company Unilever. Then during my summer breaks, when I was training to be a vicar, I worked as a postman and in the Royal Mail sorting office. For the past 11 years I have worked in a church setting.
Why do I tell you all this? Firstly, because I think it’s so important that those of us who stand at the front of churches and teach the Bible have some understanding of what it’s like to work outside the church. The stresses and pressures, relational dynamics, financial targets to be met and the exhaustion of trying to keep so many plates spinning at once can be overwhelming. That is not to say that these pressures don’t exist in a church environment also, but working in a church can shelter us from some of the harsher realities that are found in other spheres of work.
However, the main reason I tell you about my fairly extensive employment history is because I recognise that I am someone who needs to work. Not just to earn money, as much as I appreciate being remunerated. But I need to work to feel purposeful and useful. While dealing with burnout has been a small part of my history, where I really struggle most is when I am bored. I need to be productive doing something meaningful which adds value to people’s lives. And I think you do too. It’s how we were made by our worker/creator God.
After the Genesis account says that we were created in God’s image and likeness, it says why – “so that they may rule.” The word ‘rule’ is radah in Hebrew and it can be translated “reign” or “have dominion.” It’s the language of kingship. One Hebrew scholar translated it as “to actively partner with God in taking the world somewhere.” From the beginning of the story, God has been looking for partners.
We were made by God to be His partners and representatives on earth, ‘trusted rulers’ stewarding His magnificent creation. As Alan Scott says:
“Trusted rulers serve/fuel the dreams of the city. Trusted rulers know their identity, understand their spiritual authority and introduce life to the city. According to scripture every believer is a trusted ruler, called by God to lead the earth into life. This is the original mandate that has never been rescinded.”
In Genesis, after humans are formed, the very next paragraph humans are commanded to “fill the earth and subdue it.” This word subdue can mean to exploit, enslave, abuse or even to rape. But it can also mean to tame something that’s wild, to bring order out of chaos, to bring harmony out of discord. Once again, it’s the language of rulership.
We all know that there are good rulers under whom life flourishes and there are bad rulers whose reign is marked by oppression and injustice. So much of what we see and experience around us depends on what kind of ruler you have. But have you thought about what kind of ruler you are?
When you work today as a dentist or delivery driver, a microbiologist or mum, a chef or computer technician, a vet or a volunteer - you’re being human, you’re ruling over the earth. You have an unbelievable amount of potential in you — to rule well or rule badly. What kind of ruler will you be? John Mark Comer expresses it well:
“You were made to do good - to mirror and mimic what God is like to the world. To stand at the interface between the Creator and his creation, implementing God’s creative, generous blessing over all the earth and giving voice to the creation’s worship.”