Partnering with the Creator
Excerpt from The Missional Entrepreneur by Mark Russell
One of the most notable things about the Genesis creation account, seen in all of Scripture actually, is that God desires to work through humans to carry out His mission in the world. Consider the creation of human beings. God created Adam and Eve in two distinct ways: Adam from dirt and Eve from Adam’s rib. He was undoubtedly capable of creating more human beings in innumerable ways. However, instead of making human beings ad nauseum by Himself, He invited Adam, Eve, and their descendants to do so with Him. His first command was to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28).
No person of faith in their right mind thinks that humans are creating humans by themselves. We contribute the easiest and most simple part of it (at least males do) and understand that God is doing the mysterious and miraculous part. As the Apostle Paul said, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7). So it is with creating a child. We have our part, but God is the One who makes the child grow.
This has become increasingly more real to me as I have become a parent. Watching our children being formed in my wife’s womb, through ultrasound technology, produced a tremendous sense of humility within me. I realized that I had done so little, yet God had allowed us to partner with Him in the extraordinary and awesome task of bringing a new child into the world. Though human beings have played their part in reproducing since the time of Adam and Eve, it is clear that God “from one man [has] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth” (Acts 17:26). Thus we are partners with God or as Paul said, “We are God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
This concept is not limited to childbearing but also extends to other forms of work. God created the entire universe without any human help. Paul makes clear, “[God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). Yet clearly He created humans so that we could partner with Him in continuing His work in the world.
In Genesis 2, the idea of work as partnership with God becomes increasingly clear. In verses 19 and 20, God and Adam work together in the naming of all of the animals. God created the animals and brought them to Adam, and Adam was given the task of naming them. Thus work is fundamentally a way of partnering with God to carry out His mission in the world in service to one another and all of creation. It seems clear that God desires to work with and through humans and His creation to express His love to humans and creation; and for humans and creation to express their love for Him. This is the essence of spirituality. This is why He invited Adam to name the animals, and commissioned Adam and Eve to fill the earth and care for it.
Karl Barth in his Church Dogmatics advocated that only humans were created to be “a genuine counterpart” to God. The meaning and purpose of our creation is to be a partner with God. Barth notes that God “willed the existence of a being which in all its non-deity and therefore its differentiation can be a real partner.” Barth also connects this concept of partnership with the idea that we are to imitate God, saying that we are a “creaturely repetition, as a copy and imitation, can be a bearer of [divine form] of this form of life.”
Doctors and nurses partner with God to provide healthcare and treatment to other people. Veterinarians partner with God to provide care for animals. Botanists similarly work with plants. Police and fire professionals partner with God to protect humans and property from harm. Professors partner with God to teach, educate, and train others. Scientists partner with God to explore the natural order in service to God, humanity, and creation. Pastors, preachers, and priests partner with God to explore His truths and communicate them in a meaningful way to people. Likewise, business is a way of partnering with God and imitating Him in service to humanity and creation through the development and distribution of goods and services.
By stating, in essence, that we partner with God to generate profits, I do not mean to imply that somehow God profits. God already owns everything (Haggai 2:8). As with all endeavors in which humans partner with God, the benefits are for us as God cannot gain what is already His. The benefit of the profits thus goes to humankind. Therefore, we should be careful that the profits from business are not hoarded but rather are dispersed. Through the dispersion of profits, humans partner with God to provide for other humans. This partnering with God and providing for one another should be seen as living faith.
As Miroslav Volf noted in a lecture at Yale Divinity School, “We make decisions in boardrooms, we flip hamburgers at McDonald’s, we clean houses, we drive buses—and by doing that, we work with God and God works through us. No greater dignity could be assigned to our work.”