God’s fourth purpose for our lives is to subdue the earth.
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Note: If you are just stumbling upon this post, you may read the earlier posts associated with this series here: Part I, Part II, Part III
What it means to subdue
To subdue – in the form that it is used here in the bible – means to bring under the subjection of one’s will. As early as this is in the post, the point must be made that God said to ‘subdue it’. He did not say to ‘subdue him’ or ‘subdue her’. By this we see that God never intentioned for man to subdue another man. Hence, such things such as lording it over a woman, or abject slavery, was never in the will of God for mankind.
How we can subdue the earth
When God created the earth, he created some natural laws that go along with it. For us to bring the earth under the subjection of our will, we must understand what those laws are, so that we may use act in congruence to those laws to do our bidding.
This is where science comes into play. Science is simply the study of what God created so that we may use what we have learned to bring the natural things of the earth under our will (to the intent that our will reflects His will). This process is not new but has continued since before the time of the caveman to this very moment.
Why is it that the application of science and technology has been accelerated over the past 200 years compared to the previous era? It is in no small part due to the fact that mankind started to become fruitful and multiply. In other words, it is much easier to focus on innovation and progress when basic needs are met.
What does God’s command for us to subdue the earth mean for us today? It means that God wants us to educate ourselves about our surroundings so that we may use the knowledge gleaned to innovate and make progress. Why does he want us to educate ourselves and learn? The answer is simple: If we do not learn of the laws He has set in place, we will not be able to bring the earth under subjection to our will.
As a simple example, consider farming. If a farmer does not learn to give his land a break to replenish itself and plant different crops, he will find that the land will not respond to his will of producing crops year in year out. He will have to move on to another land or go hungry.
Implications of not learning to subdue
When it comes to subduing the earth, ignorance is not bliss whatsoever. In fact, consider what the wisest person to ever live (outside of Jesus) says:
The labor of fools wearies them, for they do not even know how to go to the city! – Ecclesiastes 10:15 (NKJV)
That’s not good is it? To toil and toil without any fruitful result because of lack of knowledge is awful. Hence, the lesson here is that we should not neglect our education (not necessarily talking of college or university here). Any area we fail to learn – be it relationships, finances, culturally etc. – is the area where we become wearied.
Point to Ponder: A place where knowledge and learning is absent is a place that does not experience God’s best – both individually and collectively.
Moreover, a place where knowledge is absent is likely a place where poverty is present. It is place where unrest and strife are not far behind.
Point to Ponder: To love God does not mean that we do not feed our minds and learn as much as we can.
Consider that Jesus, though being very mindful of spiritual things was not bereft of earthly knowledge. Outside of carpentry, he seemed to know how fishing worked, how farming worked, and how to handle new and old wine (just to name a few). And he used this to bridge the gap between the knowledge of heavenly principles and earthly principles.
I have seen too many people who love God suffer needlessly because they did not understand what subdue the earth entailed – they did not understand that knowledge was its pre-requisite. They say, “I love God but I am not inheriting the promises of God”. Well, God says if we love him, then we obey his commandments. One of his very first commandments is to subdue the earth…I will say no more.
Passion for God is not in opposition to having a passion to learn about our surroundings and how it works. To be religious (in the context used here) does not mean we have to abhor science and learning. Science and religion should not be enemies but should compliment each other.
There are groups out there who think that knowledge should be forbidden! They are wrong for this is not the will of the God.
Most of the time, the people who want to subdue knowledge are themselves knowledgeable. So why forbid knowledge? It is likely because they do not just want to subdue the earth, they also want to subdue and control the people within it. They do not want to inherit riches through knowledge; they want to steal it through manipulation.
Still to come: Last installment of this series. The topic will be dominion