Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
A few weeks ago I wrote about God’s Very First Commandment, which is, “Be fruitful and multiply.” One of the things that came out of that discussion was that God has designed the world to sustain His favored creatures—us. This spoke, in part, to God’s providence concerning material things. In this post I would like to ponder further upon God’s Very First Commandment and pursue some thoughts regarding God’s providence concerning the life of the spirit and how the command to “be fruitful and multiply” has set in motion a “law of multiplication.”
What do I mean by a “law of multiplication?” Have you ever noticed that good deeds often beget good deeds? Likewise, evil seems to beget evil? For instance, a simple smile at the cashier’s line in the grocery store can go a long way to smoothing out tensions that might be mounting when the person in front of you wants to pay a fifty-two dollar bill with quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies, all of which, of course, are not sorted. That simple smile might just be what the cashier and the customer need to make it through the day without snapping. That little seed, sown with tenderness and love, blossoms into eternity.
A goofy example, perhaps, but I have been there. I remember, distinctly, during my junior year in college practically shriveling up in a corner in the commons. Stress and physical fatigue where winning out and I was seriously considering throwing in the towel. A fellow student, with whom I was acquainted but didn’t know well, approached me and gently said, “Take a break if you must, but don’t give in and don’t give up.” Those simple words gave me the strength to push on. I graduated and, long story short, I am writing you this blog today. I often shudder to think how my life might have turned out had I decided to drop out of college that day.
On the other hand, a scowl, harsh word, or a sharp smack to the side of someone’s head seems to echo into the future as well, and this in a most terrible fashion. How many of us know a family whose head of the household has a drinking problem, or an anger management issue, or is emotionally unavailable (name your poison)—and has passed that problem on to one or more of their children?
I think my point is made: our actions, whether good or bad, tend to multiply in effect. I propose that this is so because of God’s first commandment. In a world before the Fall, where all of creation was pristinely good and where the human person was properly oriented, this commandment, “Be fruitful and multiply,” was meant to reflect God’s glory and to continue to show forth and communicate it (CCC 293). It still is. We are meant to magnify the Lord, and during our pre-Fall existence it was easy to do.
What we have to understand, however, is that the Fall did not make null and void the way God set up the universe. The law of multiplication is still in effect. This is why, I believe, Paul counsels and encourages the Corinthians thusly:
God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
—2 Corinthians 9:8, 10
I believe a similar sentiment is reflected in the parable of the talents. Recall that the Master became angry with the man who did not multiply his gifts (Matthew 25:14-30).
The main take-away then is this: To “be fruitful and multiply” in the spiritual sense is to recognize that a law of multiplication is in effect. Things we do snowball into great catalysts. Be careful, therefore of what you sow. If you sow the wind, you will reap a whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).