Christian Living

Subdue the earth

Our writer today is Wairimu Thiauri. She is a member of and works at Redeemer Bible Church. Wairimu enjoys reading, writing, hosting people, cooking, and baking. She is married to John Thiauri.


Last year, in December, we had the privilege of visiting some missionary friends working among the Samburu of Arapal, Marsabit county. Marsabit county is synonymous with dryness, poverty, hunger, and death. At least, this is the perception of many, and it is mostly true. The terrain there is rocky, the climate is arid, and vegetation barely survives in the harshness. But then, when we entered our friends’ compound, there was some greenery. Some life and order. The stones had been cleared and heaped on the outside of the fence. Some trees were growing, and the wind was blowing, bringing some refreshment to the highly-warm environment. 

This year we visited some other friends living in a Christian school’s compound. The location is within the outskirts of Nairobi city, in the hustle and bustle of the Kasarani-Mwiki area. If you have been to Mwiki, you know about the chaos and disorder. Buildings of all kinds and shapes have been erected everywhere without any order, matatus hooting and stopping abruptly without a sign, dust, bad roads…, etc. Just like your typical outskirts of Nairobi neighbourhoods. However, when we entered the compound, we were greeted by orderliness: Well-cultivated grass, nicely-constructed buildings, disciplined students, a cool breeze, and well-manicured lawns. It is almost as though we had stepped into a different world. Like moving from our world into another – Narnia.  

You might be wondering where I am going with my stories. Keep following. 

God’s command to subdue the earth 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

    So God created man in his own image,

    in the image of God he created him;

    male and female he created them.

And 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28

God created the world out of nothingness. He ordered everything and brought forth life through the word of His mouth. Man is the epitome of God’s creation. God created him in His very own image. Then God commanded him to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over the rest of the creation. In short, God instructed man to continue after His work of ordering and creating.

Implications of the fall of creation

The fall of man brought complications to God’s instruction. For one, instead of man having dominion over the creation, he had submitted to it by listening to the crafty serpent. Man, instead, was to have authority over the rest of the creation. Secondly, creation was also subjected to futility and longingly groans along with us, eagerly awaiting our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:19-23). 

God cursed the ground after Adam sinned. What God had established as a desirable habitation for man became a dry and barren habitation. Even the good fruits of the land have to be picked through toil and labour. 

Christ, the second Adam, lived righteously and obeyed God perfectly. On account of His obedience, God promises to reverse the effects of the curse even on creation. This promise is for both now and in the future. We experience in part the reversal of the curse of sin. When Christ shall return, we shall come face to face, in fullness, with the new heaven and a new earth where sin and death, brought about by the fall, shall be defeated (Revelation 21).

The culture of mediocrity and the command to subdue the earth

My whole point here is that God has commanded us to subdue the earth, and though sin deters us, we are to still strive at it. The two experiences I gave are instances where man has ordered the chaos in the world within his context and made it a desirable habitation. As God’s image-bearers, we ought to represent Him in how we order our spaces and cultivate our environments. 

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that loves mediocrity. Most of the disorderliness we see around us is because people break rules, give bribes, and most importantly, there is no fear of God among the people. They are not keen to create and order things in His fashion. The result is that we have chaotic towns, uninhabitable apartments, neglected spaces in our homes, trash and litter everywhere on the roads. Instead of cultivating life and order, we become agents of degeneration and destruction. No wonder the ground does not bear fruit for us to enjoy. 

Implications for the Christian

Oft times, the world has accused Christians as lovers of mediocrity. The tailor who disappoints or the mechanic who does not do his job well is likely Christian. The world accuses us of being too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good. We can prove this by how much we are comfortable sacrificing quality at the altar of our dedication to church activities or just general piousness. 

On the other hand, Christians who understand the command to subdue the earth and have dominion over creation are keen on representing their Master in everything they do. When constructing houses, they abide by the codes. When soliciting services, they will be careful to hire someone who does the job well. They will order their spaces with the utmost care, being careful to honour God. They will not litter the environment as a way to care for it. 

It is also worth noting that extravagance does not equal faithfulness to the instruction to subdue the earth. It is possible to obey these commands while still living within your means. Using the scarce or many resources God has given you to represent Him is a mark of faithfulness in itself. 

We love the hymn; 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace

While this should remain our prayer, that the things of earth will not entangle us and make us lose sight of the One who called us, we should also remember that the good things we have are gifts from above. We ought to accept them in humility and enjoy them with thanksgiving. I should pause and recommend that you read the book Strangely Bright? Can You Love God and Enjoy this World? by Joe Rigney to understand this better.  

For instance, you should enjoy the space you live in because God has gifted it to you. Hence, how you order and care for it should ultimately lead to more enjoyment of your home and cause you to burst forth in thanksgiving to the One who has provided. 


The earth is already full of many difficulties. Can we not complicate it further by being reckless image-bearers who do not take charge of creation as God commanded? 

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