Fill the earth and subdue it

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:28

The Ancient of Days by William BlakeWhen I was teaching at a school in London, my Head of Year arranged for the whole year group to visit the London Wetlands Centre. None of the staff were particularly enthusiastic about the trip, and when it turned out to be a wet and windy day, the prospect of leading our Year 7 tutor groups around the centre was rather depressing. As it happens, we we all surprised about how much we enjoyed the day. Seeing so many different birds up relatively close in a beautiful wetland environment was really rather special. Even the weather didn’t prevent our enjoyment.

Even though I enjoyed my visit to the Wetlands Centre, the picture I have in my mind’s eye of the Garden of Eden is even better. I imagine the Garden of Eden to be a beautiful, warm, sunny place, teeming with natural beauty and phenomenal wildlife. It was here that God uttered the words in today’s verse. He commanded Adam and Eve to have lots of children and to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Humans were given the task of spreading out across the globe in order to look after God’s creation as his appointed representatives. God wanted every square mile to be tended by the pinnacle of his creation – namely us, the human race.

Since those days, we’ve been very good at filling the earth, but not so good at looking after it. Particularly since the industrial revolution we’ve been harnessing the earth’s resources, particularly coal and oil, at an ever increasing rate. We’ve been burning fuels faster and faster, and pumping more and more pollution into our atmosphere. At the same time, we’ve been cutting down the rain forests that act as the planet’s lungs, absorbing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into oxygen.

Let’s all take a moment today to look around us and marvel at the beauty of God’s creation. Let’s stop and reflect about the impact that our lives are having on our planet and think if there are ways that we can honour God by making changes to our lifestyles. Can we use our cars less, and perhaps walk more, or use public transport? Are we leaving lights on unnecessarily? Are we throwing things away that could be reused or recycled, such as glass bottles or plastic bags?

Let’s remember that our planet is a wonderful gift from an incredible God, and make sure that we treat it appropriately!

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