Reflection by Pastor Shawn:
God has called you to your occupation. Not just me as a pastor, but you, too. God has given each of us a vocation. Your work is just as much a way to obey God as being a pastor. For real.
I’m talking about what is sometimes called the “creation mandate” or the “cultural mandate”. The label isn’t important; the idea is.
Here’s the idea: God created humans in his image; in the image of God, he created them, male and female. Then he called us to a task. Gen. 1:28 reads, “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.’” Similarly in Gen. 2:15 it says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
God made us in his image, and this means that we are to represent God to his creation. He is the king over all creation, and we humans have uniquely been assigned the role of vice-regents—or maybe “junior partner” might be a more helpful term.
So what do we do as God’s “junior partners”? Through meaningful work, we keep order and cultivate thriving. We develop the social world: families, schools, cities, governments, laws, economies, etc. We build cultures and civilizations. We shape the world around us by developing its potential into something new, and in so doing, to display the glory of God the creator.
This is the call from God for the human race. Don’t limit your imagination to literal gardening. This includes teaching and business and making music and architecture and caring for one’s children and driving a Didi and accounting and farming and homemaking and construction and civil service and web design and politics and sculpting and …
This is the mission given by God to all humans, whether they know it or not. It’s built right into our DNA, so to speak; we have the drive deep in our bones to fulfil the creation mandate. In one way or another, we all have the impulse to take the world as it’s given and make it into something else.
At this point I imagine you might be muttering at me, “yeah, nice idealism, pastor. But most days it seems like my job doesn’t matter much or make a difference. More often than not my work feels futile and toilsome, like I’m pushing a rock up a hill just to have it roll back down again. Get real.”
I hear you. Those of us who now live after we lost Eden find that we are working against the grain. It’s toilsome. There are weeds choking out the good fruit of our efforts—weeds like exploitation and futility and scarcity. It can all go very wrong—just look at the tower of Babel in Gen. 11, for example. Some culture-making is obedient, and some is disobedient. Sometimes it reflects God’s shalom—peace and harmony—of the original creation, and sometimes it can become a nightmarish, discordant distortion.
But when it goes more right than wrong, we might notice that we are participating in what God has called humans to do. This is good. This is noble. This is a calling from God: a holy vocation for everyone, not just pastors and people in ministry.