30,000-foot View

Genesis chapters 1 and 2 cause us to ask, “Why are we here?” This is an important question to answer for any Philosophy 101 class, and we are going to tackle it right now. Our most common answer for this question comes from the Westminster catechism, which famously says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

I take no issue with that statement other than its lack of helpfulness in determining with more precision what we are actually supposed to be doing here. At a 30,000 ft level, it is completely true, but we are not the Jetsons; we live at ground level.

10,000-foot View

Genesis 1:26 gives us a helpful start: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, [so that] he may have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” I replaced “And” with “so that” because the Hebrew is actually causative—it was not an afterthought for God to give us the role of dominion but the main purpose of creating us.

We were created to have dominion, to rule and to reign as stewards of God’s wonderful creation. This helps, but it is still at 10,000 feet, so let’s land the plane. In Genesis 1:28, God says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” He clarifies that our rule and reign over the earth involves both a multiplication of ourselves on it and a subduing of it. To subdue (Hebrew: kabash) involves bringing it under our control, manipulating it, even engineering it.

Ground-Level View

One could say that our purpose is to reign over God’s creation as stewards to bring about a thriving civilization that glorifies God and enjoys Him forever. To accomplish this is going to take a lot of work! In Genesis 2:15, God put man into the garden and clarified his role: “to work it and keep it.” The Hebrew word for “work” here is avad, which is used just under 300 times in the Old Testament in that form. It shares the same root as Avodah, which is used just under 150 more times, and another form of the word, eved, is used an additional 800 times.

The tricky thing is that “avad” doesn’t just mean work—it also means worship and service. The Hebrew mind did not separate the three as we do in English. To the Hebrew, to serve someone was the same concept as working in the temple or any other job, both in paid (Genesis 29:27) and unpaid (Jeremiah 22:13) fashion (see Exodus 5:18, Joshua 22:27, Ezekiel 29:18, among many others). It was also the same word used for worshipping, whether Yhvh or an idol (Joshua 24:14, Exodus 20:5 among many others).

Why Are We Here?

Fundamentally, we were put on the earth to work, worship, and serve; but those are meant to be one concept. This forces us to tear down the sacred-secular divide and to do all of our working, serving, and worshipping unto the LORD for the building of His Kingdom on earth.

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.

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