I have always read the Creation account in Genesis as God’s process (long or short) of making a world, populating it with living things and then as a final crowning achievement forming a man and woman out of the dust, breathing His life into them and then resting knowing the work is finished with those who, while a little lower than the angels, are given the world to rule, subdue and fill with offspring. Obviously, the order of His design established their importance.
Lately, I am considering just the opposite: God created the world and then needed someone to tend it. It was good but needed a caretaker who, while made from the same dust as all the other creatures, would be unlike any of them. Not just in degree but in kind because God would breathe into him His own spirit. He would have the same appreciation for the world as the one who made it. God’s world was not created for mankind to use as he pleased but to work and care for that good world in which he was intentionally placed. In a sense, the Garden was not created for man but man for the Garden. He was created for responsibility. He was God’s yard man. But from almost the beginning the man had other plans and other interpretations of the order of creation. “I was created last not to serve but to be significant. I am special. Not merely a caretaker, I was created last to be a managing partner and not an employee. Greatness – not serving – is my destiny.”
But “responsible for” is what those words “dominion and rule” really mean and not put here to shove the rest of creation around. Instead, we have been placed to fulfill a servant’s role in creation. God placed Adam where He wanted him and we as well have been created to be God’s employees, his servants, his yard men. We don’t like that, do we? It doesn’t quite fit with the way we would prefer to read the creation story.
We often hire a house sitter for taking care of things when we travel for several days. Imagine coming home and finding our dogs have run away, there has been a fire in the living room and everything else has been trashed by their having parties the whole time we were gone. Then, even worse, they say to us, “Well, you left me in charge so you should have no complaints. This is what it means to be in charge. After all, I am the pinnacle of creation.”
We were created for serving because, ultimately, that is the path to wisdom and wisdom is the way to our even greater purpose - to one day judge the world and even the angels as Paul says in 2 Corinthians. As Christ instructed the disciples at the very end of his time with them, greatness is not the goal but rather serving in order to become wise enough to judge. This life for all of us is preparatory for what is truly great and requires even more responsibility. This life is our apprenticeship. We don’t need to spend our lives searching for meaning and purpose. We are here to learn responsibility and seek after wisdom. That is the crown of creation.
I think about these things more now. Even after a lifetime of hearing the way to wisdom is the path of a servant, I still desire to choose my place and my own definition of serving. I want to be a volunteer – not an employee. I want to be special – not a yard man. I want to offer my time and talents – but not have them demanded by someone else. I want to have less responsibility as a reward for service – not more. I want less stress and more privileges. I would rather have fewer cities than more as a reward for faithfulness. That’s not how God prepares us for eternity, is it? He never stops rewarding us with more. He never stops preparing us for what is next. As much as we might like it, there is nothing in Scripture about His giving us responsibility for 60 or more years and then rest. The nature of the responsibility changes but it never goes away.
Some of us are in similar circumstances and need to think about what the Lord is still expecting of us. What has God prepared us for now? Where has God placed us and what responsibilities has He given us at this stage of our life? We may not be like Caleb and as strong as we were forty-five years ago but we have assets, skills and experience that are even more valuable for the benefit of the place in which we have been planted. How do we use them? How do we continue to serve and move toward wisdom? How do we fulfill the role we have been given by God to work the plot of ground we’ve been assigned?
Art by George Seurat