Exercising Dominion

By Rachel Crandell


The Bible says that God created mankind to "have dominion . . . over every living thing." What exactly does that mean in relation to how we treat our earth?


Our Earth has provided for all our human needs: clean air, clean water, plenty of resources and food. In Genesis we read, "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (1:31). God created us as His reflection, "in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created he them" (27). He also told mankind to "have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (28). Over the centuries, this verse has been misinterpreted by some as giving mankind the right to exploit, for their own purposes, any and every part of creation. This seems to be exactly why we have such big environmental problems today regarding the Earth's soils, water, climate, forests, air, overpopulation, pollution, non-sustainable energy usage, etc.

There is a difference between "dominion" and "domination." This is an important distinction. God gave us dominion as His reflection. What would God's dominion look like? I ask myself,

  • Would God’s dominion of the earth look like a ravaged clear-cut forest?
  • Would God’s dominion look like polluted air or over-fished oceans or have invasive species taking over distant native habitats?

Dominion means you are in a position of authority. If I am reflecting God's dominion, then any authority I might have over creation must be Godlike, loving, caring, protecting, and include a sense of stewardship, not destruction. That is the kind of dominion I try to promote and express.

Being in a position of authority means that we also have a great deal of responsibility. We have the responsibility to treat others, our world, with respect.

  • Would God be happy with me wasting or destroying or selfishly satisfying my own needs without regard for His other children on other parts of the Earth?
  • Before buying anything, I ask myself:
    • Do I really need this item?
    • Do I know whose home was made less because of the extraction of the resources it took to make this item and the energy consumed to create it?

Asking and answering these questions truthfully helps us make choices that express dominion rather than domination. As a result, we are being good stewards of our land and good "neighbors."

In making choices regarding how to treat our world, we can look for God's guidance through His Word in the Bible. Then we can put into action in our everyday lives our best understanding of the dominion God gave to us as His very own image and likeness. Choosing to express dominion is truly choosing to love. We have a choice. Our love can reach around the globe.