(Note: This is Part 4 of our series on biblical masculinity, adapted from Men’s Leadership Training)
When God created Adam, he put him in the middle of a garden and told him to make something of the world. We know this as the Cultural Mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply; subdue the earth and fill it; have dominion over it” (Genesis 1:28). Here we find the command to create a civilization, to cultivate the earth and turn it into something better.
As cultivators, men are to take the raw materials of the world around them and assemble them together in ways that cause others to flourish. They are to “re-create” what God has given them in creation. In order to bring about flourishing, man has two objectives in his life’s work and productivity: beauty and usefulness.
To make something beautiful means to add value to it, or bring out the value inherent in it. So architects take numbers and shapes and design skyscrapers. Janitors take cleaning products and equipment and polish a floor so that you can see your reflection in it. A fast-food employee takes various condiments and assembles a mouth-watering cheeseburger. A father takes a few blankets and chairs and creates a fortress for his children.
In all of these things, men are called to take the materials they find around them and do something wonderful with them. By organizing and assembling the pieces of creation around them, men add value and beauty to society. A flourishing culture is one in which beauty and excellence are rightly valued.
But beauty isn’t the only goal. Men must also aim to create useful things for those around them. Henry Ford took steel and screws and built cars. Louisville Slugger takes wood and makes baseball bats. Factory workers turn used tires into playground padding. A publisher takes ideas and information and publishes magazines and books.
In all of these, men must aim to contribute to the world they live in and make it functional. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s good for others. By creating useful things, men are enabling others to be cultivators too. A flourishing culture is one in which functionality is rightly valued.
The point is to find a balance between beauty and usefulness, between value and function. Some things will be more valuable than they are functional (a painting) and vice versa (a stop light), but overall, a culture that is flourishing is one in which there is a healthy balance of both. So men must work to create ideas and objects and places that are balanced in their beauty and usefulness.