Fill the Earth and Subdue It

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God is God; humans are not gods. God created the inhabitants of the sea and the birds, as well as humans. Since humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27a), we are to continue the creation project. Of course, God could have done everything all by himself. But he chose to create humanity to work alongside him to actualize the universe’s potential. He intended humans to be his junior partners in the work of the creation project. We are sub-creators in relationship with God. Indeed, through our work God brings forth food and drink, products and services, etc.

God blessed Adam and Eve with the command to fill the earth (Genesis 1:28b). The job of filling the earth could only be accomplished if Adam and Eve worked together. Physically, God created them uniquely so that they could not complete the task alone. Both a father and mother were essential to producing and raising children. While single-parenting is common in many countries today, the circumstances are often challenging and require support from friends and family members.

Please note that God’s command to be fruitful and increase in number is generally understood as an individual command to heads of the human race (Adam and Eve, and Noah and his wife). This command does not apply to every person on earth. Some people cannot have children, while God calls others to remain single (I Corinthians 7:8). Also, Jesus said that celibacy is a personal choice (Matthew 19:12). One of my own brothers is a celebate homosexual who remains single and childless. Indeed, we can have lives that are pleasing to God and bring him glory whether we have children or not.

God also blessed Adam and Eve with the responsibility to work the planet earth and subdue it. The word “subdue” in Genesis 1:28b is related to taming the wilderness for the purpose of creating a habitat suitable for human life. This requires meeting human needs for clothing, food, water, and shelter. The word “subdue” does not give humans a license to despoil the earth. We cannot exploit nature for our own selfish ends. To do so would be to cripple the earth’s ability to meet future human needs. We should be concerned about the needs of future generations as well as the present generation.

Finally, God blessed Adam and Eve with the responsibility to rule over the three major groups of living things—fish, birds, and land animals (Genesis 1:28c). Human rule over these living things does not mean we have the right to mistreat or misuse them. Any misuse or mistreatment of God’s creation is the result of sin, not the result of following God’s original command. We must fulfill our duty to manage the planet earth wisely.

God gave us the responsibility of caretakers (Genesis 2:15). God is still the owner of the world. We are mere stewards under God. We must be good stewards of our world. However, Christians must not serve the creation over and above the Creator (Romans 1:25).

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