on filling the earth and subduing it

In my last post I talked about the research I did for a talk on evolution. Now while it was a very humbling experience it also made one thing clear: our origins matter. Not just in the sense of physically how we were created/how we evolved, but also the very way we think about it, how we approach it, the assumptions and ideas we bring to the table without even knowing it. When approaching evolution and creationism a naturalistic mindset rules out any talk of the supernatural, while a dogmatic mindset rules out any deviation from Genesis 1. Origins matter, because they often determine your conclusions.

And then on the Sunday after that we studied God’s mandate in Genesis 1:28-30, to fill the earth and subdue it. That’s the first thing God says to man in the Bible, and then it all came together: origins really matter.

Knowing that we are given a godlike job of governing creation changes the way we go about our lives. Our calling, our passions, our dreams, our purpose in life, that command sums it up: to do what God does, within God’s kingdom, under God’s authority. So knowing our origins in Gen 1 gives us purpose.

Now how we go about it though is another matter. By and large I think we’ve stuck to that mandate, but we’ve just done it wrong. The way we pursue wealth, expand our businesses, expand our companies, our reputation, circle of friends, all kind of fall under subduing what we see. But our subduing is often destructive, to ourselves (how many people work themselves to the bone to make money, for themselves or for others?), to those around us, and often to the environment. We rule and subdue but we forget who gave us that job, we forget we’re not God. Knowing our origins, knowing that we have a responsibility to be like God in our God-given mandate, to go about it the way he does and under his kingship, that gives us a good standard to look at and good boundaries to go by.

Not knowing or appreciating our origins can also be harmful. Look at Adam and Eve: they experienced the closest possible relationship with God, they were made in his image, they talked with him face to face in a beautiful place, they knew no sin and shame, they were happy, they carried out their God-given mandate to rule creation, to be like God under God’s kingship. But here’s the tragedy of the Fall: Adam and Eve were like God in so many ways yet they didn’t appreciate the staggering depths of that fact; they didn’t realise or appreciate the riches of their closeness with God. Being like God under God’s kingship was not enough for them, they wanted that kingship for themselves. And that set them up for their fall.

In the same way our origins matter in today’s culture. Knowing we are God’s image-bearers, his children, a chip off the old block, that we have a job that hasn’t changed for thousands of years, that we are precious because of Jesus’ blood – those origins should energise us and make us happy. Our culture often takes a vapid, feel-good approach to looking at ourselves. “You’re awesome” is heard a lot. How much does it mean though? In our vanity we put higher value on what people think of us than how esteemed we already are by God, and what an important job he has given us. And the pursuit of awesomeness, of men’s esteem, often throws a smokescreen over who we are and what we do.

Origins are important for looking at ourselves and making a difference for the kingdom, important for living for Jesus.

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