IN THE BEGINNING, God told the plants and animals: “Be fruitful and multiply!” They had no choice. Man is different. We are free to heed God’s command or to ignore it. God gave us a command, and he gave us a mission: “Fill the earth and subdue it.” He wants human beings to populate the whole world so we can care for it. We have to choose between care and neglect, between respecting nature and destroying the planet.
There are several reasons why God’s command is mysterious. The first has to do with a paradox. People with weak faith assume God made a mistake. They think the worst way of caring for the planet is to fill it with human beings. This is wrong. Paradoxically, filling the earth with human beings is the only way we can work together with God to make the world as beautiful as he wants it to be. This assumes, of course, that men and women understand whatcit means to work with God. If they don’t, then they will destroy—or atleast try. Which is why the Book of Revelation says: “The time has come to destroy those who are destroying the earth.”
The second reason why God’s command is mysterious has to do with understanding what would have happened if Adam and Eve had never sinned. The Book of Genesis implies there would be no death or disease. The human population would have grown extremely fast. Assuming each married couple had a small family of only four children, the population would double every generation. After a mere 800 years (roughly forty generations), the planet would have been home to one trilllion people. That is ten times more than the total number of human beings that have ever been born.
This “what if” scenario offers a context for asking questions about God’s plan for a world where death and diseases are universal. What are we supposed to do once we have filled the earth? Have we reached that point already? Are we still long way off? How full is full? How many human beings have to be alive at any one time in order to meet the goal set by God? Is there such a thing as “too many” people?
We can answer these questions by remembering that procreation is not ope-ended. When Christ returns in glory, he will change everything so radically that no more children will ever bs born. The number of human beings will be fixed forever. As he said, “men and women will no longer marry”. Instead, we will be ” like angels”. In the meantime , he wants us to take our mission seriously and “fill the earth”.