By Shawn McMullen
God cares about the natural world. Genesis 1 tells us he created it—land, sea, and sky, along with plant and animal life—and called it “good.” As creator of the natural world, God is its owner. The psalmist noted, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1) and “The earth is full of your creatures” (104:24).
God provides for the natural world. “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly” (Psalm 65:9). Both land and sea creatures “look to you to give them their food at the proper time” (104:27). Jesus himself noted that God feeds the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26).
God has made us stewards of the natural world. He commissioned Adam and Eve to “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, he put him there not only “to work it,” but also “to take care of it” (2:15).
As God’s appointed stewards of the natural world we’re responsible to him for the way we manage it. Sadly, some people have taken the idea to an extreme. Missing the point that the earth’s resources (see Job 28:1-6), as well as its plant and animal life (see Genesis 9:3), have been provided for our use and benefit, they have become overly protective of the environment—even to the point of worshipping what has been created rather than the Creator himself.
That’s not to say we’re free to mismanage the environment, however. Christians, of all people, must be balanced in their roles as consumers and caretakers in the natural world.
We’re protectors. When we assume the role of caretaker of the natural world, we accept the role of protector. If we can act reasonably to balance the populations of endangered species, we should do so. If we can pursue alternative forms of energy that allow us to be better consumers of the earth’s natural resources, we should do so.
We’re preservers. Stewards of the natural world don’t spoil what God has created. They don’t litter. They don’t pollute. They don’t recklessly damage the environment. They preserve it.
We’re promoters. Christians should champion causes that promote the common sense care of the natural world. Supporting local, state, and national parks, helping to preserve wetlands and rainforests, participating in wildlife preservation projects, joining responsible environmental groups, and even planting trees in your own backyard are all good ways to help care for the planet.
In the end, though, we must remember that the natural world, like our own physical bodies, awaits its redemption (see Romans 8:19-23). It’s a temporary habitation, meant to serve and sustain God’s crowning creation, humankind. So we live in the world and use its resources as God intended—never wasting, squandering, or abusing this great gift of God; but enjoying it (see 1 Timothy 6:17), caring for it, and thanking God for providing for us in such magnificent ways.