The Bible begins with the portrayal of a CREATIVE God. “In the beginning, God CREATED the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The subsequent verses describe God as an artist, sculptor, and engineer of the material universe. He creates for purposes of both function and beauty…left-brain meeting right-brain…science overlapping with art. “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully MADE” (Psalm 139:14). His fingerprints are all over the creation, which is why “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Every time you gaze at a night sky with its twinkling stars or the shades of a sunset swimming together, you are admiring artwork on the grandest scale imaginable. And the most amazing aspect of that canvas that is the universe is that it was brought into being “ex nihilo” – out of nothing. In the sense of “ex nihilo,” God is the only truly creative being.
But God does not reserve all aspects of creativity for Himself. He invites Adam into creative purposes with Him. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). In his book on Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch reminds us that “a garden, of course, is not just nature: it’s nature plus culture.” That 2-fold understanding of a garden may be why the New Testament frequently uses agricultural images to describe evangelism and spiritual growth: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6). The message is clear. The garden belongs to God, and He does more than we will ever see or know, but we do play a role in the garden's cultivation. God has expectations of Adam’s cultivation skills.
For humans, creativity is actually CULTIVATION – it’s the taking of raw materials that God has brought into being and fashioning…combining…flavoring…coloring…refining them. We do this when we cook an omelet, channel electricity into a device, design a t-shirt, test a potential cancer treatment, build a bridge, write a song, light a candle, draw a picture, or fertilize a cornfield. I’m cultivating right now through the use of language. Most of our daily tasks are forms of cultivating what God has created, and thus we each make numerous contributions to culture every day…culture being the collective cultivations of a group of people.
Now we must remember that not all use of creation falls under positive cultivation. Sometimes entire forests are wiped out, preventing the sustainability of resources. Men have forever distorted the extracts from plants into illicit recreational drugs. Even Noah cultivated a vineyard but then used it for the purposes of drunkenness (Genesis 9). The use of language to communicate can quickly slip into a vehicle for profanity and hatred. Technological advancements designed to make us more connected can actually have the opposite effect. Genetic engineering may flirt with or even cross ethical boundaries. Modesty may be compromised in the name of creative fashion. So fallen humans often abuse the creation and mis-cultivate with an aim toward our own selfish purposes.
Knowing these selfish tendencies, I submit a reminder to the people of God that the cultural mandate of Genesis is ongoing. It was not just Adam's responsibility. We all have been charged with filling the earth and subduing it...with cultivating and keeping it. God expects creativity from us! It’s part of our human purpose as caretakers of His creation. A better culture doesn't happen by withdrawing from and condemning the current one. It happens through creative, thought-provoking, beautiful, useful, life-sustaining, clean, efficient, productive, godly, soul-searching contributions to culture. That's your job. And that's mine. After all, we were each designed in the image of a creative God. So get the creative juices flowing...
To His Glory,
Preaching & Outreach Minister