“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.” Genesis 1:27-28
Fifteen-year-old William Gadoury of Quebec recently made worldwide news when he discovered the remains of an ancient Mayan city using nothing but star charts and satellite mapping images. He theorized that since the location of other Mayan cities corresponded to constellations, a particular constellation with three stars—and only two discovered cities—had a third city waiting to be found. After analyzing charts from the Canadian Space Agency, Gadoury found geometric objects hidden deep beneath the jungle canopy on the Mexican-Belize border. William knew that in a jungle setting, square foundations—however faint—represented human construction.
It is a characteristic of human civilization to want to create beauty by shaping nature, whether this is to build a city, or even plant a garden.
Human beings are unique among the other creatures of the world. While plants and animals, birds and fish all display the handiwork of their Creator, humans alone enjoy the distinction of being made in the image of God, of sharing in the so-called imago Dei (from the Latin translation of “image of God” in Genesis 1:27).
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? The Hebrew word tselem and the Greek word eikōn refer to a representation; something that is similar but not exact.9 Various branches of Christianity have taken different approaches to the meaning. Some say the likeness between humans and God is functional—that we are to act in the way God acts and thus mirror His attributes. Others say that it is the personhood of human beings that makes them like God: the combination of our intellect, emotion, and will. Still other branches of Christendom say it is our capacity for complex relationships that make humans reflect the image of God. Probably all of these are true. But one of the most compelling similarities between God and people is our desire to instinctively create beauty just as God did and does. We are designed to participate in God’s handiwork as stewards over His beautiful creation.
Stewardship, according to Merriam Webster’s, means the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. When God made the first human beings—Adam and Eve—He put them in a garden He had made in order for them to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:8, 15). It is no accident that God placed our first parents in a garden:
His heart loves beauty. Since that time, there has been a built-in desire in the human soul to create beauty and impose order on our surroundings. Art, music, carpentry, agriculture, and storytelling are just some of the ways that we can steward the resources God has given us to create beauty.