John Mark Comer, from his new and important book, Garden City, a book that probes us to think about our work — what we do, who we are — in light of God’s designs for the world and for us — a really helpful book. Pitched at the right level for the right audience.
I quote from John Mark Comer:
There’s a nasty rumor floating around the church right now, and it sounds something like this: “It’s who you are that matters, not what you do.”
Really? Where do the Scriptures teach that!
It’s true that some of us look to what we do for our identity and a sense of self-worth.
I’m a photographer.
I’m a designer.
I’m a pastor.
Currently there’s a much-needed backlash against this unhealthy way of thinking. But be careful that the proverbial pendulum doesn’t bang you over the head. What we do flows from who we are. Both matter.
After all, the vast majority of our lives is spent working.
By working I don’t just mean our job or career. Work is way more than what we get paid for. It’s cooking dinner, cleaning your apartment, washing the car, exercise, running errands — the stuff of everyday life.
And the next largest slice of the pie chart is spent resting (22-23; Rob-Bell-like white space original).
The mantra of our culture is that we work to live. The American dream — which started out as this brilliant idea that everybody should have a shot at a happy life — has devolved over the years into a narcissistic desire to make as much money as possible, in as little time as possible, with as little effort as possible, so that we can get off work and go do something else (26).
In Genesis’s vision of humanness, we don’t work to live; we live to work. It flat out says we were created to rule — to make something of God’s world. …Because when we stop working, we lose a part of who we are (27).
And especially get this, so important:
When you go to work tomorrow, remember, you’re not just a designer with a clothing label; you’re a partner with God, taking the human project forward.
You’re not just a mom or dad getting your kids off to school or reading a story before bed; you’re living up to God’s call on your life to “be fruitful and increase in number.”
You’re not just a contractor, working long, hard days in the heat and cold to build a house; you’re cultivating the earth, drawing out its potential, and reshaping the world into an environment for people to live as God intended.
You’re not just a student going to class, or a light-rail operator going to the station, or a software engineer working on a new app, or a chef coming up with a new recipe, or a scientist in his or her lab, or a checker standing in place at a grocery store, or an entrepreneur working out some crazy idea…
You are a modern day Adam or Eve. This world is what’s left of the Garden. And your job is to take all the raw materials that are spread out in front of you, to work it, to take care of it, to rule, to subdue, to wrestle, to fight, to explore, and to take the creation project forward as an act of service and worship to the God who made you (65-66).
But the cultural mandate has been transcended without eclipsing it:
True, but a number of scholars point out the parallel between the cultural mandate in Genesis 1 (“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”) and the so-called Great Commission in Matthew 28 (“Go and make disciples of all nations.”)
They argue Jesus is rephrasing the cultural mandate in light of human sin in exile from Eden, and in light of his inbreaking kingdom.
If that’s right (and I think it is), then as followers of Jesus we have a dual vocation. Not one, but two callings.
The original calling — to rule over the earth. To make culture.
And a new calling — to make disciples. To help people come back into relationship with the Creator, so that they can rule over the creation. Not just so they can get forgiveness and go to heaven when they die. But so that they can come back from heaven and rule over the earth as they were always supposed to (more on that toward the end of the book)(106-107).