Genesis 1:28 tells us: "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.'"

Some words just do not sound nice. To me the words ‘dominion’ and 'subdue’ are such words. When I hear how God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, I feel no negative

reverberations. But the command to ‘subdue’ the earth sounds rather harsh. Why

did God not speak about ‘cultivating’ the earth? And why is the first couple

told to have ‘dominion’ over all the other creatures? ‘Exercising care’ would

have sounded so much friendlier to me.

There is a reason

why words today no longer mean what they once meant. When this earth was

perfect, words like ‘dominion’ and ‘subdue’ had no negative connotation. There

was not the slightest hint of power or force. But once sin entered this world,

everything changed. Even the perfect intimacy between the first man and the

first woman was affected, and their innocent nakedness turned into total

embarrassment. From now onwards,

subduing and exercising dominion no longer describe a loving and caring

disposition, but they create a mental picture of hatred and hostility.

Significantly, the Hebrew word that is translated as ‘subdue’, may also mean

‘to enslave’, and in some instances even ‘to molest’ and ‘to rape’. And the

word that is translated as ‘dominion’ often refers to the kind of rule that is

severe rather than benevolent, oppressive rather than supportive.

We never needed close connection with God more than we need it today"


From bad to worse

The first human

beings were appointed as stewards of God’s creation. One of their first jobs

was to give names to all God’s creatures. I do not know how I must interpret

this. Did these names come to their minds through divine flashes of

inspiration? Did they use some kind of early Hebrew? It does not seem that the

information about the naming of the creatures around them is intended to fully

satisfy our curiosity on such points. For the Bible writers ‘names’ were more

than useful labels to keep things, animals and people apart. In fact, God

himself had a peculiar way of dealing with names. Names have to do with the

essence of the things or beings they refer to. Names presuppose relationships.

That is why names may change when the nature of a relationship alters (you

remember how Jacob became Israel?). Adam and Eve’s job of ‘naming’ the animals

suggest that their ‘dominion’ was to be built on a relationship with their environment.

Sin did away with

this positive relationship with nature. Adam and Eve had ‘named’ everything

around them, but now they were no longer ‘on speaking terms’ with the natural

world. Genesis 3 tells us of the radical change. From now onwards the ‘multiplying’

would be a painful business. The joyful equality between male and female would

now be marred by inequality and subordination. The beautiful produce of the

earth would grow among thorns and thistles, and tilling the soil would now

require hard and exhausting labor.

As man was

estranged from his original calling of perfect stewardship, the ‘dominion’ of

the earth became a ruthless exploitation and ‘subduing’ came to be increasingly

characterized by brute force and relentless egoism. The grateful, responsible

use of the resources of this globe deteriorated into a rape of the earth’s

natural resources, a destruction of much of its natural habitat and even a

dramatic change in the world’s climate.

Must we just accept

the status quo?

What are we to do as

Christians who live in 2013? Should we simply accept that sin is an awful

reality? Why should we try to change things, knowing that we live at the end of

time and things must get worse before they can get better—when Christ comes to

make all things new? Or do we

still have a holy calling to be stewards? Do we believe that Christ’s kingdom

can already be realized among us, albeit in a very limited and preliminary

manner? Might Christ’s command that we become the salt of the earth (Matthew

5:13), and that we do all we can to give a better taste to our society, also

mean that we must give optimal care to our physical world? Does not the New Testament suggest that

followers of Christ are to be stewards who operate on the basis of kingdom

values and try to push back the virus of sin where we can?

What has happened to the Christian steward? Is Patrick McLaughlin, an Anglican priest and Christian thinker, right when he states that our churches are filled with ‘owners’ rather than stewards?"


What has happened

to the Christian steward? Is Patrick McLaughlin, an Anglican priest and

Christian thinker, right when he states that our churches are filled with

‘owners’ rather than stewards? To be a steward is to have a lord. A Christian steward is someone who

recognizes the lordship of Jesus Christ over every domain of his life.

Traditionally, Seventh-day Adventists have emphasized two areas of life in

which they wanted to clearly uphold the lordship of Christ. Adventist

Christians know that God is the owner of all material wealth. He owns ‘the

cattle on a thousand hills’ (Psalm 50:10). They maintain that God allows them

to use ninety percent of those material resources that are entrusted to them

and claims just ten percent thereof as His. The principle of ‘tithing’ stands

as tall as ever before. Unfortunately, a sizable percentage of Adventists seem

to have forgotten this. Billy Graham’s words are worth quoting: “Your checkbook

is a theological document. It tells you whom and what you worship!”

A second domain of

stewardship on which Adventists have traditionally insisted is care for the

body, which they have regarded as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Being God’s temple, the body

must not be defiled by bad food and harmful substances.

Reclaiming our original mandate

But stewardship has

a much wider application than money and meat. It is about reclaiming the

original meaning and exercise of ‘dominion; that dates from before the entrance

of sin. When man was created in the image of God, the way in which he exercised

dominion over his environment reflected God’s rule of love. God’s ‘dominion’

over his creation continued to be one of loving care, while man’s dominion over

what God had entrusted to him became marred by self-love, cruelty and exploitation.

Christians are called upon to return to what God originally intended. It is as Dr. R.C. Sproul, a popular

American Christian author, wrote in his book Essential

Truths of the Christian Faith:
“We are called to

reflect the character of God’s righteous rule over the universe. He never

ravages or exploits what He rules, but rather reigns in justice and

kindness” (p. 132). Christian stewardship today demands a new

understanding of man’s original mandate. When we recognize Christ’s Lordship

over everything, we will understand that we must be utterly serious about

restoring his kingdom values, even in the midst of the ravages of sin. It means

that we will be totally committed to restoring relationships of full equality

and mutual support between the genders. It means that it becomes part of the

mission of the Christian church to work for justice, for the protection of our

environment and the safeguarding of our climate. It implies that we no longer abuse

the natural resources that God has given us but show responsibility and


Representing the King

The term ‘steward’

has ancient roots. Its use in English is already attested as early as the

thirteenth century. It has royal connotations, as is reflected in the name of

the English royal house of the Stewards (with “Stuart” as the French

spelling). When we use the word

today its royal connections are as strong as ever. Christian stewards are

representatives of the King of the universe and they exercise ‘dominion’ over

the world on His behalf!


Fast Facts:


Type: Mammal

Diet: Carnivore

Average life span in

the wild: 10 to 12 years

Size: 3.5 to 4.5 ft

(1.1 to 1.4 m); Tail, 25.5 to 31.5 in (65 to 80 cm); Weight: 77 to 143 lbs (35

to 65 kg)

Protection status: Vulnerable

Reinder Bruinsma
Dr. Bruinsma lives

with his wife Aafje in

Zeewolde (Flevopolder, the Netherlands).

During more than forty years he has

taken up various assignments—in several different countries—for the Seventh-day

Adventist Church.

Over the years he has authored more than twenty books and

hundreds of articles, in Dutch

as well as in English (visit

Even now (while officially retired) writing keeps him occupied for the

most part of his time.

From September 2011 until March 2013 , he served as the

interim president of the Adventst Church in Belgium and

Luxembourg.  He says now that he has retired for the second time,


trusts that once again he will have more time for writing, teaching, travel and

other pleasant things!