Upon the completion of creation, God rests on the seventh day. This is an eternal lesson for each of us, as it was (obviously) not as though God was tired, or in any way needed to rest, but rather to serve as an example to each of us. God rested on the seventh day, blessing it, to teach us the necessity of just such a thing. So often we busy ourselves with work, we toil, we rush and stress six days a week, but there must be one day, one time, set aside that is holy and sacred, time that is set apart for blessed repose and worship. We see this in the gospel in the story of Mary and Martha. Martha is so busy doing such great things to entertain that she misses “the more important part,” to merely sit in silence and listen to the voice of our God speaking to us. To take the time to rest and focus on growing spiritually. We so often mistake busy-ness for productivity, and at the end of the day, what have we accomplished, and how important is it for us?
Further, we see in this passage that God forms Adam in the same manner as all of the rest of creation; the same manner as the beasts and animals of the land. He forms man out of the dust of the ground, but then does something different, unique to Adam that He never did with the rest of the animals. The account tells us that He “breathed in his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” See, this is where the divide comes between man and the rest of the animals on the earth. Each were living, breathing, functioning organisms prior to this, even Adam, however God breathed the grace of the Holy Spirit into man. In St John’s account of the resurrection, we see Jesus, speaking to His disciples, and we read, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (John 20:22), who is the “Lord, the Giver of Life” (Nicene Creed).
See, there are so many who would claim that man is but another animal living in the world, that there is no difference between us and a random animal in any jungle or zoo; in fact, there are some who more highly covet the lives of those animals than they do human beings. But, those who make such claims discount the very thing which Scripture tells us separates us from them, that we are made in the very image and likeness of God, and that the Lord breathed into man this breath of life. He placed us in a position over His creation to steward it and defend it, but to rule over it; and then asks us to be good stewards, caring for His creation, not rampantly destroying it merely because we are capable of doing so. We have received this gift from God, and this gift is our very intellect and freedom, which is granted to us by Him, and has given us dominion over all of the animals of the earth. God formed Adam, thus he was a living body, but it wasn’t until He breathed into him this breath of life, the grace of the Holy Spirit, that Adam became a living soul, truly alive. God created this beautiful creation, and then created man and gave him dominion over His creation to care for it.
See, when we declare that man is nothing more than another animal, we blaspheme the grace of the Holy Spirit. In giving mankind this gift, God has, in fact, given each of us dominion over the earth, over the animals and the beasts. Man was made in the image and likeness of God and was given stewardship over His creation, not equality with it. And while we must, as good stewards, respect and care for all of creation, we must never place any part of it as higher than our fellow man. It pains me to see people buying gourmet food for their pets, clothing for their dogs and cats; all the while neglecting the plight of their brother or sister who lies naked and homeless, starving in the cold. People who would spend 300 dollars on medication for a cat, while refusing to offer a meal to a hungry man, a blanket to one who is homeless.
We’ve allowed this mentality to permeate our culture far too long. We must stop consider our brothers and sisters as merely another animal, and recognize that each person we meet is an icon of the living God, formed in His image and likeness, and remember that He commands us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the prisoner, to care for the orphans and widows, and that whatever we do to them, we do to Him; and likewise, whatever we don’t do for them, we neither do to Him. May we all see Christ in every human being that we encounter; whatever their ethnicity, their background, their economic status. Each person that we encounter is an icon of Christ, and however we treat them, we treat Him.
Christ is in our midst.