Why did God Make Humans?

Why are we here? Where did we come from? What is our purpose on earth?

One of the most basic things that could be said about mankind is that we were made to oversee and tend the earth. God did not go to craigslist or monster.com to find a qualified worker keep his creation. Instead, he made the perfect employee. The Genesis account gives us an understanding of the beginnings of all things. In Genesis 1, we learn that God decided to create us in his image. In Genesis 2, we learn why and how he created us. This post will focus on the why. Next post will focus on the how.

Why Did God Create Us?

Genesis 2:5-6 says:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up–for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground–

These two verses give us a flashback to chapter 1–a flashback that fills in more information. God created plants and animals in such a way that they need an overseer and caregiver. As he is calling animals and plants to come into existence, God has in his mind to create mankind on day six to be that caregiver.

The Genesis 1 account of the creation of man says that, after God blessed them, he said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 2 flashbacks with a simple statement, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Mankind is not at the top of the food chain, but rather, mankind oversees the food chain. We are the dominate species on earth–not because of the survival of the fittest–because God made us to be the dominate species on earth. We were created with a unique ability to rationalize, name animals, plan and tend the garden, and generally maintain the order and beauty of this planet.

However, many of us are not called to be farmers or zoo-keepers. What does this mean for our jobs? How hard should we work? How should we use our days off and vacation time? What practical teaching does the creation account give us?

  1. Both work and rest are good gifts from God that we were intended to enjoy.
    • Work is good (Genesis 2:15) and rest is good (Genesis 2:1-3).
    • Workaholism is bad and laziness is bad.
    • Work is not a necessary evil and rest is not a necessary evil.
  2. The nature of work demands that we bring order and beauty to our corner of this earth. Whether our corner of this earth is accounting, or selling fridges, or house-momming, or delivering packages, we should “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” We should do things well, bring order and beauty, be honest and trustworthy, and be the absolute best that we can be.
  3. Our designed purpose is work, not rest. The “Everybody’s-working-for-the-weekend” and “This-job-is-a-paycheck” attitudes are not spiritual. Our job, our house chores, and our church service should not only be a means to an end, but should also be an end in themselves. Jobs do make us money so that we can survive, but they should also be our little corner of creation that we oversee and care for.
  4. Work is difficult to remind us of the curse. Work existed before sin, but it was cursed because of sin. God said to Adam after he sinned, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” Rather than bemoaning your job difficulties, bemoan sin that curses work and makes it hard; thank God that Christ has saved us from sin!
  5. Both work and rest teach things about God.
    • Work reminds us how the Creator made this world, but rest also reminds us of Creator’s rest (though he didn’t need to) on the seventh after he created the world.
    • Work helps us to fulfill a divinely-given purpose, but rest also reminds us of our human limitations.
    • Work reminds us that only Christ’s works were productive enough to bring us back to God, but rest shows us what trust in Christ’s works looks like.
  6. This recent post has more helpful advice on work and rest.

The Gospel, Work, and Rest

Laziness is selfishness. Workaholism is pride. I am filled with selfishness and pride. I often forget about my Creator. These sins are insults against God. That independent selfishness indicts me with crimes against my Creator–crimes for which a wrathful God will punish me.

The Good News of the gospel is that, although I am proud and selfish, I do not have to be enslaved to those sins or to be punished for those sins. Jesus Christ received my punishment–the death of an independent, selfish, proud man. By believing in Christ, I can be forgiven and freed to submit under God’s purpose for my life. Through this forgiveness, my relationship with God expands from a Creator-creation relationship to a Father-son relationship.

Rather than finding my identity and joy in productivity or success (work), I can find my identity and joy in Christ’s work on my behalf. Rather than finding all my pleasure and purpose in my hobbies (rest), I can find my pleasure and purpose in God’s will for my life.  If my identity, purpose, pleasure, and joy are found in Jesus Christ, then I can be free to work hard and rest well without either becoming a life-dominating sin.

Practical Questions to Examine Your Heart

  • How have I been slacking in my work (at home, at church, or at my job) lately?
  • How can I bring more order and beauty to my work?
  • Am I resting well? Am I taking regular time off to refresh my body and soul?
  • What things can I do for rest that will be refreshing, rather than just distracting?
  • How can I more intentionally meditate on gospel truths through my work and rest habits?

Created in the Image of God

In a previous post, we learned that our relational tendencies proceed from God being a relational God. In this post, we will consider what it means to be made in the image of God, otherwise known as the Imago Dei. Our key passage is Genesis 1:26-28:

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. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Verse 26 is God’s consultation and decision to create man, verse 27 is a short song about the event, and verse 28 is God’s creation work of man. Verse 26 gives us a glimpse into the committee of the Godhead. After creating light, water, thousands of varieties of small and large vegetation, billions of stars and moons and planets, birds and fish, and mammals, he takes a brief respite to council together about the creation of mankind. This pause in the matter-of-fact creation account gives the reader a sense that his next move will be grand and wonderful. How could he possibly top billions of stars? How could he display any more artistic beauty than the colors of a sunset? How could he demonstrate any more wonder than the varieties of animals on this earth?

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Let Us Make Man in Our Image

In the pinnacle of his creation, God chose to embed, or depict, himself. This may seem arrogant to some, but here are two reasons why it is not arrogant:

  1. Who are you to critique? 🙂 If I was to go through your phone, your facebook account, your computer, your photo albums, and your walls in your house, how many pictures would I find of you?
  2. He is the supreme beauty. He made this world. He has a right to display himself.

What does it mean to be made in God’s image? My first instinct is to say that we are created in God’s image in the same way that a stick figure is made in our image. Most of us get the idea of what a stick figure is supposed to represent, but it never really does justice to a person, no matter how cute it is.

When the Bible describes God, most authors say something like “such was the appearance of the likeness of the form of God.” There is an indescribable quality to God that makes him difficult to recount. I think the image of God in mankind is like that. It may include morality, or dignity, or  the dominion of the earth, or emotions, or self-realization, or rational thinking, or having a soul, but I don’t think it is limited to any of those things.

My Dog Named Chloe

I have a beautiful pure-bread Golden Retriever named Chloe. Chloe is extremely smart, very well-tempered, and in good health. We have bred Chloe several times and sold the puppies to make some part-time income. In one sense, Chloe is worth more to me financially than my son is, because she earns me more money. But does that make Chloe worth more? Obviously not.

Let me take it a step farther: Let’s say I am driving with Chloe in the back seat. We cross over a bridge when I hit a car. Both cars go over the edge and start sinking into the water. Looking over, I see the other car has a middle-aged man who is knocked out and will drown if I don’t help him now. Chloe is also knocked out in the back seat. Which life should I save? Which life is worth more?

Regardless of how much money my dog has made me or how faithful of a companion she has been, a human life is worth more than any dog’s life. We know this. Our intuition tells us that humans have a unique dignity.

When God chose to create man, he paused and consulted within himself about how he could make man special. He chose to create each of us in his image, which gives every human a unique dignity. This is called the Imago Dei.

Broad Implications of the Imago Dei

  1. Gender Equality – Contrary to common opinion, the doctrine of the Imago Dei actually necessitates gender equality. Rather than evaluating the worth of each gender through strengths and weaknesses, the Imago Dei teaches us that there is a much deeper reality about each gender which guards us against any gender superiority or inferiority. (Genesis 1:27)
  2. Race Equality – The doctrine of the Imago Dei also demands racial equality. The fact that every human is created in God’s image not only requires that we condemn racism and slavery, but that we also work and sacrifice to abolish racism and slavery.
  3. Financial Equality – A person’s Imago Dei is what ultimately gives them value. Trillions of dollars cannot add to their dignity as a human, and only having pennies cannot take away from their worth as a human created in the image of God. For this reason, we must be impartial towards the rich and poor in justice and opportunities.
  4. Health Equality – Many people have looked at a loved one on their death bed and knew that sickness and death were wrong. Unfortunately, this causes some to think that sickness and death causes a human to lose their dignity as a human. The implication is that it would be better to take their loved one’s life before they got too sick. However, humans do not derive their dignity from health. Death and sickness are so very wrong (they are part of the curse of sin), but even through death and sickness, humans retain their dignity because they have the Imago Dei imprinted on their very existence. This forbids any form of euthanasia.
  5. Age Equality – God creates life at conception. Regardless of dependence level or age, a fetus inherently has the image of God. That image is not bequeathed to them three days after conception, or three months, or six months, or 9 months, or in their first breath, or within 15 minutes of its first breath, or until it is independent enough to survive without the mother. It has the dignity of the Imago Dei, and therefore to take that baby’s life is a terrible sin against a defenseless baby and an atrocious vandalism against God.

Marriage Implications of the Imago Dei

This is a marriage post, right? Understanding the doctrine of the Imago Dei can change your mindset and help your marriage in several ways.

  1. Beauty – How do you continue to look at your spouse as beautiful, handsome, or dignified? What about on sweatpants days? What about on no-makeup, no-hair-style days? The Imago Dei tells you that your spouse has beauty and dignity as a person regardless of appearance. There is a deeper shine to his/her life than just the physical. As you see and appreciate their dignity and virtue, they become wonderful to you. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and how that eye sees is determined in the heart.
  2. Fighting Lust – Sexual sin, particularly in pornography, often dehumanizes the person who is object of lust. The Imago Dei in that objectified person is removed and they are reduced to an object of sexual desire. By recognizing the Imago Dei in that person, they are given their dignity back and our lust loses its power. Rather than a person being an object of lust, they are a person in the image of God who should be loved, sympathized with, and pitied.
  3. Faithfulness – By recognizing the Imago Dei in our spouse, we sense the virtue of maintaining our faithfulness to them instead of being unfaithful.
  4. Arguments – The first thing that happens in arguments with our spouse is that we forget who they really are. We forget their virtue, their love for us, and the history of our relationship with them. In arguments, we reduce them to an object of frustration. By remembering that they are created in the image of God, we realize that they are worth so much more than petty arguments. We may still need to work things out, compromise, apologize, and forgive, but when they become humans with the Imago Dei, they can no longer be an object for frustration, and they turn into a companion to share life with. (James 4:1-10)

The Gospel and the Imago Dei

Unfortunately, by our sin, we damage the Imago Dei. This insult against God is like cosmic vandalism which incites God’s wrath and punishment. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ absorbs God’s wrath and punishment in his death on the cross. By faith in Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, we can be given a new nature. This new nature causes us to repent of sin and pursue righteousness. As we become more like Jesus Christ, we bear God’s image better (Ephesians 4:24). This will finally be consummated one day in heaven when, “we will be like him, for we shall see him just as he is.” (1 John 3:2)