Have you ever visited a manufacturing company? Maybe you’ve watched a few of those Made in America shows on the Travel Channel, the one where “Cliff” from Cheers (John Ratzenberger) visits various American manufacturers and takes the viewers on a mind-boggling tour showing step-by-step how everyday items are made. Cool stuff, but I promise you it’s not nearly as cool as getting your own personal tour of such a place!
Recently, I had the privilege of driving to Ripley, Mississippi to spend a couple of hours with the Vice President of Operations of EcoWater Systems. You know her as our own Anne Rushing. But did you know that she runs an entire manufacturing plant, overseeing approximately 150 employees, a 220,000 square-foot facility of state-of-the-art equipment, and elaborate production processes that manufactures residential water softening and filtration systems? Yes, Anne Rushing is a rock star in the manufacturing world!
As I looked through my required yet chic safety goggles for the tour, I got to see much more than blow molding, fiberglass curing, and assembly lines; I saw a beautiful facet of the kingdom of God. ?
That’s right, the complex and behind-the-scenes work that produces the products we constantly enjoy throughout each and every day of our lives isn’t second rate to the spiritual stuff we tend to prioritize in life; it isn’t something on the side of what we call ministry. No, this is the nuts and bolts of what God created us as humans to do in the first place.
God made us—humans—for the earth, to rule it on his behalf. Our purpose in life is deeply connected and intertwined with creation itself. Yes, we were made for the world, and God created us to make something of this world. Let us not forget the cultural mandate God gave his image bearers in Genesis 1:26–28.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Next to agriculture, manufacturing is one of the clearest pictures of our God-given cultural mandate in action. We take the gifts of God’s creation, unpack it, unlock its potential, and make something of it, something that benefits and blesses others.
At this very moment, take a look around you. Much of what you behold is product after product produced by manufacturing. Indeed, the computer I’m typing this article on is a product of manufacturing. The paper you’re reading this article from is a product of manufacturing, as is the ink on the page. And all of this, at it’s best, is nothing less than the faithful stewardship of God’s creation by human beings.
Of course, the gospel story reminds us that we all have been unfaithful to this calling in so many different ways. We want to run the world our way instead of God’s way, and so we act and behave and even manufacture in ways that damage our world, that hurt one another, and that separate us from God.
But praise God, the gospel also tells us that Jesus is making all things new, and that through him and the Spirit, God is not only restoring us to himself and to each other, but he is also renewing our humanity, making us truly human again so that we can get on with our God-given task of ruling God’s world in God’s way. Yes, the gospel saves us from sin so that it will save us for the task of being human once again.
Thank you, Anne, for giving us a glimpse of what that looks like, the kingdom of God.