Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
33. What does it mean in Genesis 1:28 when it says God told Adam to subdue the earth and to rule over all living creatures? Does this give human beings the right to do anything they want to the earth?
Unbelieving environmentalists often blame Christians for pollution, extinction of certain animals, global warming, and a host of other ills. They base their condemnation on Genesis 1:28 saying that the Bibleís teaching led to a destructive and selfish mentality that has cost innocent animals their habitat and their lives.
The truth is that God created man "in His image" thus making man superior to the rest of creation. Nothing else Ė plant, animal, or earth Ė has Godís image inherent in its existence. Man does! That God brought all the beasts and birds to Adam for naming (Genesis 2:19-20) illustrates manís superiority, for only those who are superior can bestow names. Further, God gave Adam the task of caring for the Garden (see Genesis 2:15).
When Eve and Adam sinned in the garden, they did not lose the "image of God" in their nature. It was, however, marred or damaged. God punished Adam and Eve by passing upon them the sentence of death, removing them from the Garden, and fundamentally changing their environment. It is man in his sinful state that misuses the earth and its creatures.
Godís intent was for man to be a "servant-king." The earth and all in it belonged to God. By the way, that fact has not changed (see Psalm 24-1). God made man to rule over all things on the earth. He was a king. He was, however, a vassal king. He was king, but he owed his allegiance to his liege Lord. God intended for man to care for his property as a steward (vassal). In Genesis, God told Adam to "work it and take care of it." When Adam sinned, Adam gave his loyalty to Satan. It is Satan who works through manís selfishness to misuse the earth and all that is in it.
Christians, whom God has made new, should begin the task of redeeming fallen nature. Believers once again admit that God is the owner of all creation. They accept their role as stewards of all Godís handiwork. Christians should be at the forefront of genuine concern for our planetís ecology. Wasteful or overly extravagant lifestyles that selfishly soak up the worldís resources should be avoided. Christians should support efforts to conserve our worldís beauty, resources, and living things. It is foolish to destroy that which can be preserved just to reduce cost or to facilitate development. With creativity and a sense of stewardship, we can develop cities, homes, and even oil fields in such a way that beauty and nature can be preserved.
The believer who understands their God-given stewardship has much in common with the environmentalist or the ecologist. There is a place where we part company though. The Christian understands that genuine human need always takes precedence over that of a rock, a plant, or an animal. Furthermore, we understand that all life is not sacred. Only that life created in Godís image is sacred. Therefore, many believers would support the Oregon farmers who needed water for their crops over an endangered fish. Others would question the failure to develop Alaskan oil fields when we depend so heavily on oil from foreign lands.
It is time to recognize that God gave human beings the privilege of caring for a beautiful and fragile planet. All of life should be a stewardship. God owns it all. He even owns you, and He properly expects your obedience by right of creation.
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