Life can be busy. There are days when I find myself running from one thing to another, trying desperately to cross anything off my already-too-long to do list. On one hand, that’s ok. We do have responsibilities that require our attention, and there will be things we need to accomplish to care for ourselves and the people around us. On the other hand, however, it’s important to remember that doing more is not why we’re here.
I say that because, for many years, I thought it was. I thought my purpose was to be a “Good Christian Woman.” To do all the things that good Christian women do; to work and serve and strive until I had done enough, and then do a little more just in case. The truth, though, is far better than that. Our purpose is not to do more; our purpose is to be the image of God.
We were made in the image of God. I know I heard that growing up. Sunday school classes about the six days of creation surely mentioned it, but somewhere along the line, between flannel graph pictures of twinkling stars, soaring mountains, and Adam and Eve with strategically placed shrubbery, that fact got lost. To be honest, I didn’t understand what it meant to be made in the image of God. As a result, the idea that I’m an image-bearer has always just hovered on the outside of my notice, like an afterthought.
But it’s not an afterthought or an aside; it’s not even a sub-point. It is the heart of God’s plan for us.
What Our Purpose Is
Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”
With those words, God declares both what he is going to do and why he is going to do it. He is going to create humanity, and he will do so to place his image on the earth. This is the heart of our purpose! This is what we were created to be: his image.
What does that mean, though? The word for image is a Hebrew word that refers to something cut off, or fashioned, to look like something else. Most of the time in the Old Testament, it’s used to talk about idols, and it almost always implies a physical representation of another thing. The phrase “after our likeness” expands that to include all the other ways we are like God. In every way that we are like God, we bear his image.
In short, to be made in the image of God means that we are his reflections on the earth. It means that we were made to represent him, to reflect his character, and fill the earth with his glory. It means that everyone everywhere has inherent worth, dignity, and value because all people were made in the image of God.
But as with many important topics, sometimes it’s important not just to know what it means, but also to know what it doesn’t mean, too.
What Our Purpose Is Not
First, being made in the image of God is not about us. God created us as his image to reflect his character to the world, to point others back to him. We’re like living, breathing mirrors that show the world something about him. And because we were made in his image and likeness, our whole selves reflect him. What this means is that everything about us shouts of the existence of God. The intricacies of our bodies—our anatomy and physiology—declare the wonders of his creative nature. The depth of our emotions—even the very way we think and relate to one another, and the way we love—was designed to reflect his character. And by reflecting, we direct attention back to him.
There was a time in my life when I really struggled with this. It’s weird to think that my purpose isn’t about me! But the truth is, there so much hope and freedom knowing things don’t start and end with me. In fact, the very fact that God created us in his image speaks of his great love for us and his infinite care.
Second, being made in the image of God is not about what we do. It can be easy in our world today to focus on our actions. We look to our careers and our accomplishments to find our purpose. We find meaning in what we’ve done and worth in our contributions. So it makes sense that we would believe our reason for existing revolves around what we do. But image-bearing isn’t like that.
Our value, our dignity, and our worth are not found in what we do; they’re found in the image we bear. Before we did anything, before we earned it in any way, apart from any abilities or actions, God created us as his images on the earth. We are exceedingly valuable, not because of what we can bring and contribute, but simply because God has declared that we are. You matter to the God of the universe!
I don’t know about you, but I have spent so much of my life trying to do enough. But the glorious truth is our purpose is not about what we do; it’s about who God is. And it’s not about working harder; it’s about Christ’s work in us, restoring and transforming us to be more and more like him. By creating us in his image, God is inviting us to find rest in our purpose and rest in him.