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  • Writer's pictureSteve

God's Creation Mandates at Work

And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Genesis 1:28).

What did God have in mind for Adam and Eve when He gave them these mandates? Do they still apply to us? Let's look at the keywords in the passage above for insight. Afterward, we'll look at some takeaways we can apply to our Kingdom advancement in the workplace.

  1. "Be fruitful": To bear or bring forth fruit can mean several things. Some have tied "Be fruitful and multiply" together into one idea of reproducing. But separating the ideas makes more sense in this passage. God commanded the couple to be productive, not so much in making babies – that comes next. Here, God is telling the couple to make the land grow and bring forth an increase to supply for life's provisions.

  2. "Multiply and fill the earth": Now we're making babies. God is commanding the first couple to reproduce. Like every other living thing created, they were to procreate, filling the earth with people like themselves.

  3. "Subdue it": The verb here is kavash. It literally refers to stepping onto something. It's symbolic of the act of subduing an enemy by placing your foot on their neck. In the larger context, it means bringing something under control. When discussing the earth, God couldn't have meant for Adam and Eve to conquer it. That doesn't fit the context. Instead, the command more likely refers to bringing order and control to the earth. If not attended to properly, the land (or earth) will trend toward disorder and unfruitfulness. That's why Adam and Eve were assigned work in the garden. They were to maintain it as part of a larger mandate that applied to all the earth, having the responsibility for keeping it under control.

  4. "Have dominion": The word here is radah. It's similar to kavash, but has less to do with controlling and more to do with ruling. The word is often used when describing the relationship between a slaveowner and their slave, reminding the owner to rule with respect for the slave's human dignity. The master wasn't to rule as a dictator. Instead, he was to rule as a benevolent leader. By combining kavash and radah, God commands Adam and Eve to control and maintain order over the land and rule respectfully over their animal subjects in ways that promote the well-being of all.[1]

The commands given to Adam and Eve remain in place for us, despite Adam and Eve's sin and God's curse that followed. God repeated the mandates to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1-7). Therefore, sin didn't make the mandates obsolete. Sin and the subsequent curse only made it much harder for people to carry out these responsibilities. Let's look at sin's impact on God's commands by exploring the verses of the curse found in Genesis 3:16-19.

To the woman he (God) said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.

"Multiplying and filling the earth" would come at the cost of pain for the woman.

"Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you."

We must explore this passage by comparing it to another with similar wording. Look at Genesis 4:7:

If you (Cain) do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.

In 4:7, the Hebrew words interpreted as "desire, contrary, and rule over" are the same as those that God said to Eve. Here, we see God warning Cain to do well. Otherwise, an evil desire to sin will overtake his motives. Therefore he must overcome the temptation to sin by taking command of his will to "do well." The same concept applies to the curse on the woman with a slight twist. She will desire to overtake the man's role in their relationship, but he will take command of her. In general, the divine roles of mutual support and purpose in their relationship will regress into a battle of wills between the two for domination[2] over the other, forcing conflict and division between them.

Adam's curse contains more words but is easier to explain.

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

From this time forth, work was going to be a grind. The ground wouldn't cooperate in yielding its produce, as fields would yield thorns and thistles rather than desirable crops. And hard labor would be necessary to produce enough to eat. Such was Adam's painful lot, and he'd work this way until he died.

What conclusions can we draw from our discussion? We conclude that God intended for men and women to unite as one to build a worldwide community (multiply and fill the earth). The community would provide for itself (be fruitful) while managing the provisions of the land and its living creatures to ensure the healthy sustainability of both (subdue and have dominion). Humanity's responsibility hasn't changed, despite the introduction of sin. All that's changed is the curse that resulted from it, making this work much harder.

Instead of unity, division prevails among people and their communities. Child rearing has become a painful process from beginning to end. The earth is uncooperative in yielding its fruit, making productive labor hard. And the earth's environment, with its living things, is trending toward chaos as humanity continues to rule like a dictator over the land rather than a benevolent leader within it. These trends must be overcome, which can only occur by overcoming the sin that brought them about. And sin can only be overcome by our Savior, who provides redemption from the curse (Galatians 3:13).

How can we apply what we discussed to the workplace? We'll start by reminding ourselves that a Christian's work is to advance the Kingdom of God, which entails restoring things to their original divine purpose. As such, Kingdom work occurs in businesses when:

  1. Oneness is happening. Leaders are unifying people toward a godly mission while respecting each person's dignity and unique role. Division and conflict are being proactively dealt with.

  2. Fruit is being produced. Processes operate efficiently to deliver products and services of high value with employees experiencing personal fulfillment.

  3. Multiplication is taking place. Intentional investments are being made to grow the company and the people within it. Employees are not exploited for management's selfish gains.

  4. Proper "subduing" is occurring. Company systems are reducing chaos and bringing control to the production of products or services. And wasteful byproducts inherent to the creation or use of those products or services are continuously being reduced. Profits don't take priority over the proper stewardship of people and resources.

  5. Proper "dominion" is occurring. Leaders aren't operating as dictators over the workplace but as benevolent managers within it. Servant leadership practices are replacing command and control management practices.

  6. Pain is being mitigated. As much pain as possible is being eliminated through the work environment, whether the pain is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Company practices minimize the potential for inducing any hardships on employees.

What do you think? Is your company doing Kingdom work according to God's mandates for humanity? What needs to change?

[1] [2] The Hebrew word for "rule" here is mashal. It means to govern or dominate. It's conceptually different than either subdue (kavash) or have dominion (radah) discussed earlier. The desire to dominate another human being, especially in the marriage relationship between a man and woman, is the result of the curse and wasn't part of God's original creation plan.

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