Welcome to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you have about practical issues that you face.
As always, you may submit questions for future “Ask Beau” posts by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a comment on this post.
The answer to today’s question is critical, because the notion that mankind is made in God’s image is foundational to the Christian understanding of who you and I are (see also Genesis 9:6; Psalm 8; James 3:9). It is impossible to have a proper perception of ourselves and our role in this world if we don’t understand this “image of God” business.
As usual, context is our key here. Note that immediately after the Bible’s initial statements that mankind was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), the text tells us that mankind is to “fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion . . .” There is a connection between exercising the stewardship mandate and being in God’s image. The NET Bible makes the connection even clearer in its translation of Genesis 1:26: “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air . . .” (emphasis added).
In a recent presentation at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr. Richard Averbeck added clarity on the meaning of the “image” and “likeness” terminology by citing ancient Near Eastern usage of the terms. When the terms appeared outside the Bible, they normally referred to a physical image of a ruler, such as a statue of a king. The point here, says Averbeck, is not that the Bible is saying that humans physically resemble God. Rather, the Bible is saying that by being in the image and likeness of God, humans are the physical representatives of the Divine King (God).
Thus, the primary element of being in the image of God is being equipped with the capacity to rule wisely over creation in representation of God Himself. It follows that we “image” God most effectively when we act as wise stewards. This goes far beyond the way we use our money. It is a matter of creative development, care, and protection of all the various physical and non-physical resources God has entrusted to us.
I find it helpful to say that we are not owners but general managers. God is the owner of the world, but He has made us in His image so that we might be capable of wise management. Just like a general manager of a sports franchise, we are to manage in such a way that we recognize a) that the resources entrusted to us are not our own, and b) that we maximize those resources in keeping with the owner’s goals.
What practical significance does it make when we see ourselves as God’s stewards, His GMs? How does this apply to family leadership, vocational pursuits, recreation, etc.?
—Beau StanleyFollow @beaustanley