God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over…every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:27
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. – Genesis 2:15
Have you ever noticed how the two creation stories in Genesis point to two basic parts of what it means to be human?
In the first story, God charges humans to “have dominion” and “subdue.” Just as in creation God mastered and subdued chaos (symbolized by water), so are we to do the same with the forces that threaten to destroy life. Just look at how our bodies call out for food and water to continue living, and how they fight off infections that would threaten them. And just look at how societies wage war so to protect themselves and/or dominate enemies.
In the second story, God tells us to “tend and keep” that which is beautiful and pristine, symbolized by the Garden of Eden. Whenever we do anything that enhances life—plant a flower, raise a child, be moved by music or art—we’re fulfilling this side of life.
Isn’t it interesting how Jesus reshaped this creation dynamic? In the Sermon on the Mount, he talked about us trusting his Father regarding our struggle for survival: “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, nor about your body…” (Matthew 6:25). Instead, we are to make life beautiful: trust God, love enemies, make peace, advocate for justice, be generous and kind.
In other words, if we focused more on living and loving, and less on fighting and protecting, we would make our Creator smile a lot more. And, of course, so would we.