This is part two of a 7-part series on the sacred/secular divide.
We are taking a deep dive into the “Sacred/Secular Divide” and probing it for lies. A helpful starting question is: “What is our purpose?” That can help us discover what we should be focused spending our energy and resources on and what we should not. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question this way: “What is the chief end of man?” It answers by saying, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
This is a totally true statement, but it feels lacking. Let’s tackle the question from another angle. If I were speaking to a group of high school or college students (or even post-grads!) trying to discern what to do with their lives, the Westminster Shorter Catechism definition wouldn’t be helpful to us because it is too high level, like flying at 30,000 ft and trying to see what is happening on the ground. Let’s descend a bit and see if we can add some clarity. For that, let’s go back to the beginning.
Garden of Eden
In the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, everything pertained to God. Curiously, the English words “worship” or “glorify” were not even mentioned in the first few chapters of Genesis because to do the work that God had set out for mankind was inherently glorifying to Him—and was inherently an act of worship in a perfect world. It was only at the fall in Genesis 3 that we could now choose to work as a means of self-glorification, of obtaining power and prestige for ourselves rather than for God. For the first time we could partake in pleasures of life outside of the will of God.
In a perfect world (pre-Genesis 3), we were meant to take the chaotic garden God gave us to live in and bring order to it, causing it to flourish and teem with life. It was always supposed to be worked on with the LORD, and it was meant to be transformed into a thriving civilization. We will return to this point later.
Dominion and rule
Genesis 1:26 says that we were created in His image to have dominion (meaning to rule and reign – “control”) over His creation. In ancient Sumerian cultures, chaos was considered evil (they wouldn’t have liked my home!!!) so having a bit of control was akin to creating order. This is our purpose as humans. We were created to have dominion and to rule and to reign as God’s regents over His creation. The Hebrew is quite clear: “Let us make man in our image so that he may rule” (Genesis 1:26 In the Hebrew the phrase is causative, meaning the purpose of the creation of man is to have dominion/rule/reign).
Even as infants we try to figure out what is ours, and as toddlers we begin to want to create our little domains, albeit mixed with the sin of selfishness. Because of the sin of man, our concept of dominion is now skewed. Indeed, as Solomon would highlight in Ecclesiastes 6, we never really get dominion right in life under the sun: some people have too much dominion (they dominate) and others never get enough (they live under someone else’s thumb). Either you work but someone else gets to enjoy (you lack control over your God-given domain) or you work and—rather than being satisfied with your God-given domain—through lust and greed for more, you end up dominating others.
Because of the events of Genesis 3, we have lost balance in our God-given cultural mandate to have proper dominion under Him. This is part of our assignment in B4T – to restore that dominion by dignifying those we are serving with good, satisfying work to do and the ability to provide for their families.
This thread of mankind ruling and reigning (dominion) is woven all throughout the Scriptures, and we are clearly meant to rule and reign for eternity (Revelation 5:9-10); but finally at the second coming of Jesus, we will be able to have dominion over the earth without dominating it or others. In fact, Jesus’ use of “The Kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew and “Kingdom of God” in the other gospels is precisely to demonstrate His chief purpose in coming—to restore the earth to God’s perfect rule and reign. At 10,000 ft, this is our purpose; but it still isn’t quite helpful in a discussion with students as to what they were created to do. Let’s descend further and land the plane next week.
Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.