But the Bible tells us something different.
The Bible tells us to build.
God gave an initial charge to humanity: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)
Does this sound like permission to the pillage the earth for our own pleasures? Think again. Remember, scripture is always read in context.
The context here is the full creation story of Genesis 1. God has built the universe. It is a thoughtful and careful creation. The picture in Genesis 1 is of God forging life, goodness, and order out of a watery chaotic void.
We even see God giving a very specific command to the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. It sounds very similar to the command that God will later give to humanity: “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas and let the birds increase on the earth.” For the animals, fruitfulness is equated to increasing in number.
But the command to the humans is different. Fruitfulness is not just a matter of increasing in number – it is also a matter of subduing creation.
Here’s the rub. Humanity is made bearing the image of God. Genesis 1:26 and 27 repeat this point three times. And what has the context just told us about the character of God?
God makes things.
God makes good things.
God brings order out of chaos.
God rests from His labors to enjoy his creation.
Does that shed a bit of light on what it is to be made in the image of God? Does that further shed light on what an image bearer of God should do in terms of “subduing” creation? Does it challenge us that we not just called to be consumers … we’re called to be creators.
And lest we think we create only to suit ourselves, we should remember that in the creation story, God places humanity in a garden and directs humanity to care for the garden.
A garden. God’s garden.
A place where nature is cultivated.
A place where the gardener intentionally nourishes plants and animals so that they can thrive.
A place where the human mind manages the created world in such a way that creation can more fully express God’s glory.
So everything we have has been given to us.
But it hasn’t been given to us so that we can buy flashy suits, or fly in private jets, or have the adoring crowds. It hasn’t been given to us because we’ve “named it and claimed it.” It hasn’t been given to us as a return on a “seed of faith” gift that we’ve given to some huckster televangelist.
It has been given so that we can build and bless. That’s the transformation Robert Duvall’s character undergoes in the film “The Apostle”. He moves from a belief in a God of prosperity to a belief the God who calls us to build.
What are you building?
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