Fertility and Dominion
28 God blessed them, 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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” -Genesis 1:28 NRSV
There is a movement among some Christians to boost our fertility rates; the idea is, if we have more “Christian” children, then we will be able to keep up with the high birth-rates of groups like Muslims (especially groups like Muslims). These persons will quote today’s verse to justify their conviction, then they will give the following application: “Well, if God told us to be fruitful and multiply, then we are in rebellion if we do not do it!” It becomes the mallet of shame for those who criticize and demonize couples who cannot have children or simply choose not to do so. That is one way of reading this verse, and it often leaves many wounds. There are also those who use this verse to rationalize and spiritualize the misuse and abuse of the environment; if God said we have dominion, should we not be able to do as we please? We forgot that dominion entails responsibility; power demands that we be held accountable for our use of it
Another way of looking at this passage is that God is sovereign over our fertility and our dominion of the Earth. It should be seen more as an exhortation than a command. The happy father who releases his daughter to go play on the playground with the charge, “Go on sweetie, run around and have a good time!” Is not commanding his daughter to go play but showing her the benefits, while also keeping an eye on her to protect and help her if she needs it. I see this passage as that sort of exhortation; God is giving us full permission to enjoy his creation. It is not a “shame on you if you don’t” as much as a “feel free to do so, you will find it to your liking!”
We show that we enjoy God when we enjoy his provision with him in mind. That is why when we make decisions we need to consider what God wants; that may be marriage and lots of kids, but it may also be singleness in community…or even marriage without children. The point is that our choice, our exercise of dominion, be for the purpose of advancing God’s kingdom and his glory. When we do so, we will be fruitful and multiply, because we are making disciples in whatever way God has called us to do it.
God is Good:
God has given us the opportunity to enjoy multiplication whether it is through marital sex or through making disciples; he has given use dominion over creation for its betterment and our enjoyment
God is Great:
God is sovereign over our fertility (or lack thereof) and he is the one by whom we have dominion over the Earth; he watches over us as we enjoy his good gifts.
Oh Lord, we recognize that our ability to be married, have children, or to be single, all come from you; our dominion comes from yours. May we seek to love you and make you known regardless; in the name of Jesus we pray, amen.