Before Jesus gave us the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28, God gave Adam and Eve what I call the “Great Management Commission” in Genesis 1.
The first reference to humanity in scripture is found in Genesis 1:26 with God saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” In God’s perfection and creation, he created mankind as male and female, blessing them and giving them an assignment, work to be done, and a purpose in the world. What follows in verse 28 is a direction of an intention for those created in the image of God, and that is to let them have dominion. This means to master, to have control over, to rule and to lead every part of creation mentioned in the previous verses in chapter 1.
Both man and woman have the responsibility with God’s authority to rule and manage the earth and all that is produced within it. Ultimately, they are not to do this alone as they are to fill the earth with children who will join in the family business of managing the earth and making it useful and productive.
When sin entered the world in Genesis chapter 3, everything was affected: health, family, relationships, justice, the environment, money and work, just to name a few. Sin also distorted how we think of God’s original Management Commission. We unknowingly have bought into three lies about work. Deeply hidden beliefs and prejudices inside the local church and in the marketplace can affect one’s value, self-worth and contributions in the world. These lies can lead us unknowingly into a form of idolatry. These three lies can hold us back from the full realization of God’s work. The lies are based on what we do for work, where we work, and who does the work.
Lie #1: What we do
We can all nod our heads in agreement that all work matters, everyone has a unique work to do, and so on. I know we all want to believe that and we may really do….but deep down our hearts betray us. Culturally, the work of someone with an office and a management job seems more important and has rock star quality over someone who is a factory lineman or who holds an hourly job. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company no doubt may cast a longer shadow of influence than the construction foreman, but in God’s original design to rule and manage the earth, both are equally valuable but different types of work.
Lie #2: Where we work
If we were to be honest with ourselves and with the culture around us, would we find that we place a higher value and assumption of importance on work that receives a paycheck versus work in the home or volunteer work? I know I have been guilty of working all day and coming home to my family, but eager to get back to that email or idea I was working on. When the husband comes home after a long day at work and is greeted by his wife who has been home with their kids all day, does he see her as a person to serve him as he relaxes or a partner in life who has been working all day herself managing her part of God’s creation?
The industry one works in is another contrast. One of the mistakes a pastor can make in trying to connect with his working congregation is to be too exclusionary in his language. One common mistake is to use words like “business” and “career” in one’s teaching. Business is only one industry in the marketplace. The teacher and the doctor do not see themselves as working for a business but in the industry of education and medicine. A janitor, construction worker or grocery store check-out clerk may not see themselves as having a career. Overemphasizing one type of work in a general setting may send a subtle message of its elevation of importance.
Lie #3: Who does the work
God created male and female distinctly different from each other in how our brains function, how we interpret situations, problem solve and lead. Those differences should be complementary as they together rule and manage God’s creation. God calls both men and women to work inside the home and in the marketplace. Value and opportunities based on gender is a distortion of God’s original design for the world.
As we identify those subtle lies lurking in the background of our beliefs, we can root them out and help others to do the same and to walk in the peace and security of who God made them to be and do the work he has called them to do in the world.
Image attribution: stevanovicigor / Thinkstock