In the opening chapters of Genesis humanity’s dignity and pride of place in creation is affirmed – we are described as being “in God’s image”. We are also created to be workers, whose job is to rule over other creatures and till the land. In some sense, we might say we are “co-creators”. We establish and maintain order as God did and does, making it possible for life to flourish as God intended.
If we are indeed created in God’s image and to be workers, what might work in God’s image look like?
Firstly, it could suggest that work is something that is done in community. God as Trinity is one but also “communal”. Human beings are in God’s image together as men and women, not simply on our own.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them 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.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27, ESV, emphasis added)
Similarly, humans are not designed to function as islands, but to be together:
“The Lord God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone.”” (Genesis 2:18, CEV)
So, perhaps the first thing we might say about working in God’s image is that it means work should not always or primarily be viewed as something we do on our own. It is important for people to work together and to understand that the greatest tasks we have been given by God can only be fulfilled corporately. We all have individual parts to play, but work is healthier in community of some kind (e.g. in teams).
Secondly, the creation account of Genesis 1 suggests very strongly that God is a God of order. He assigns each element of His creation a particular place and role, bringing a sense of order out of the primeval chaos. The God of the Bible is not chaotic.
This suggests that some structure to our work is useful. We should be establishing and maintaining order in this world and need structure ourselves to do so. This is not a rigid, inflexible order that stifles, but one that enables creation to flourish. Chaos and randomness are not God-like qualities, so working like Him would involve some sense of bringing about a benevolent order that benefits all.
Thirdly, God is a creative God who brings about new things and enables His creatures to flourish. This might suggest that our work could and should involve creativity in various forms. We can bring “new things” into being, whether they are ideas or objects, following in the creative footsteps of our God.
Work that removes all possibility of creativity is, therefore, dehumanising. If we are simply cogs in a machine, slaves to procedures, not allowed to think outside the box or do anything other than repeat what we have always done, we will not be acting in God’s image and be fully human.
So, we might say that healthy work environments require (amongst other things, this is not an exhaustive list!) some degree of communal/team work, a sense of order and structure as well as the freedom to be creative.
What do you think? Is this your experience of work? When one or more elements are missing, how has it affected your work?
© Joe Lenton, October 2012