May 9, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Genesis 1:26-28 (NRSV)
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
The God who exercised imagination in creating the universe made humanity in the divine image. Therefore, we have been given the gift of imagination. We are to use this gift as we fulfill God’s first calling to humanity, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and exercise authority over it. Though some people are exceptionally imaginative in certain areas, all of us reflect God’s image. Therefore all of us have the opportunity to use our imaginations for good.
This devotion is part of the series, Imagination: Redeemed and Redemptive.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we considered the imagination of God as revealed throughout the Bible, but especially in the first chapter of Genesis. Today we continue our reflection on this chapter, now in relationship to the imagination of humanity.
In Genesis 1 God creates the universe out of nothing. God doesn’t base creation on any existing model or universe. Rather, the cosmos is a physical expression of God’s imagination. What God sees God speaks into being.
The creation of human beings is like the creation of everything else in that it is an expression of God’s imagination. But God’s vision of humankind is different from everything else in the universe because people are created in God’s image and likeness. Human beings are uniquely like God. Part of this uniqueness is expressed through the authority people have over everything else on earth.
Now, if we were created in God’s image, and imagination is part of this image, then part of our human DNA includes the imagination. Let me quote once again from an article by Matthew Ristuccia and Gene Veith, Jr., “Imagination is a facet of the image of God. The human imagination is not only a great gift of God; it is also an aspect of the image of God.”
Why has God given us this special gift? Genesis implies that this is part of God’s plan for human beings. After creating the man and the woman, “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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’” (Genesis 1:28). In order to do the work God assigned to humanity, we need many gifts and abilities, including imagination. We need to be able to see what does not yet exist so that we might labor to bring it into existence.
We might call this sort of imagination “creative imagination.” Even as God’s imagination contributed to creation, so it is with us, though on a very different level and in a very different way. When a sculptor imagines a new sculpture, they can’t simply speak it into existence as God did in the first creation. Rather, their imagination leads to weeks, months, or even years of work. (It took Michaelangelo three years to sculpt David.)
Genesis 1 reminds us that imagination is not only for people like Michelangelo, unusually gifted artists. Sometimes we think that way, thereby devaluing our own creative gifting and calling. To be sure, some people have extraordinary imaginary ability, whether in art (Michelangelo), literature (Tolkien), music (Beethoven), cooking (Child), or technology (Jobs). But every human being created in God’s image reflects God’s imagination. If you stop to think about it, many “ordinary” human tasks actually require extraordinary imagination—things like raising children, managing a staff, designing a product, or leading a church.
In future devotions, we’ll think about how we might value and enhance our own imaginative capacity. Today, however, I would encourage you to reflect on the fact that God has created you in God’s own image, and that part of your created identity includes imagination.
In what ways is human imagination like God’s imagination?
In what ways are the two different?
In what parts of life do you regularly exercise your imagination?
In what parts of life would you like to be more imaginative?
Talk with your small group or a wise friend about your experiences of imagination.
Gracious God, it is truly a wonder to think that you created us in your own image. Right from the start, we are special to you, special in all of your creation.
Thank you for creating us with the capacity for imagination. Thank you for giving us this gift so that we might effectively and imaginatively do what you have given us to do: being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, and exercising authority over it.
Help me, I pray, to learn to be more imaginative in the work of my life, whether I’m in the office, the study, the workshop, the classroom, or the store. May I be creative in my core relationships, with family, friends, neighbors, and folks from church. May I learn to use my imagination to serve people in the world, whether by painting murals, feeding the hungry, freeing the captives, or embodying the love of Christ. Amen.
Banner image by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: People Are Created in God’s Image (Genesis 1:26, 27; 5:1).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.