Mandate: The Dominion and Stewardship Given to Man
“…and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26b)
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen.
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea;
whatever passes through the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:6-8)
Both NASB and NIV use the word “rule” to describe man’s God-given mandate to manage His creation, particularly, the animals. NKJV uses “have dominion” to refer to the same.
Dominion is royalty, a facet of the divine image in every man, involving dignity, splendor, and a legitimate sovereignty rooted in one’s very being.
This implies how Christians are encouraged to treat every human with equality, respect, and dignity, regardless of differences in wealth, education, or social status. Under the Roman Empire, men were regarded superior to women, slaves were despised, and lepers outcast from their families as homeless beggars. Christian theologians believed these marginalized peoples are fully human, created in God’s image, and, consequently, worthy of respect.
Genesis 1:27 states that God “created man in His image – male and female.” This connects both genders, simultaneously created and gifted, to a distinct relationship closely linked to their being made in the image and likeness of God. Man and woman belong together, as God intends, for mutual dependence and complementarity. The woman is man’s helper – equal in status and responsibility in divine dominion over the earth. Man and woman, as husband and wife are, firstly, relational, before procreational – mandated to co-manage God’s creation before commanded to “go forth and multiply.”
Human dominion over the non-human world inadequately defines what it means to be in the image of God. Stanley Grenz reports
Although at one time, some scholars linked the imago Dei directly with dominion over the creation, the near consensus in recent years has been that in the Genesis text, dominion is not to be viewed as an explanation of the imago Dei but as a consequence of creation in the divine image.
Human stewardship of creation must reflect the image God’s affirmation and care for what He has made.
Eden without Adam is and will remain a potential paradise; whether or not it becomes perfected paradise depends on what Adam and his children do with it.
Endowed with speaking, knowing, and doing, humans express the truth of their being made in the image of God. The likeness of God includes responsibility or conscience in some cultures. As God’s counterparts, humans must account for and be responsible for the meaning of their existence. Often directed against God, this question on the existence and meaning of life is universal – not bound to any particular religion and is true even when religion is rejected.
Harrison tells us to find a task that corresponds to our gifts and glorifies God while serving our neighbor or caring for the created world. We are to discover ways to affirm “the royal dignity” in all people, especially the marginalized – those who society is inclined to despise.
Implication and application: Man, created in God’s image, is to dominate and rule over God’s creation. This is our social responsibility – to human and non-human portions of creation. God intends for man to take care of the world He has made for him. In naming God’s creatures, Adam was authorized to oversee and be mindful of their welfare. Today, our earth is endangered by man’s abuse with pollution of every kind. The abuse extends to all forms of abuse, violence, and extermination. Sadly, thus is the plight of the “good” world God created for us! Each child of God must contribute to loving his neighbor and his surroundings in the least possible way – even saving a glass of water to share with the poor and thirsty. Social responsibility and social justice must bring about equity and equality to society’s needy – those in our immediate family, school, church, and community at large. This God-given mandate is all about relationship – one that God originally intends for us to enjoy with Him, being created in His image. How is our relationship with fellow human beings? Are we diligently working out our responsibility toward each other – to help, to take care of, to love as God wills, as He relates to us when He created us in His own image?
 New American Standard Bible.
 Nonna V. Harrison, God’s Many-Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for
Christian Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 90.
 New American Standard Bible.
 Stanley Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001): 197 quoted in Tom Smail, Like Father, Like Son: The Trinity Imaged in our Humanity (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 47.
 Smail, 49.
 Scullion, 111.
 Harrison, 106.