By Tammy Darling
Few topics today are more hotly debated than global warming and the role of the government’s Environmental Protection Agency. But there is more to the debate than the temperature of our atmosphere and environmental laws; the way we regard the planet and the impact we have on it have profound moral implications. This is, after all, God’s planet.
For much of the last century, many Christians have missed—or ignored—their responsibility as stewards of the earth God has created. Even so, God’s first job description for humankind, to care for and protect the earth (see Genesis 1:28, 2:15), has not been revoked. The mandate is still in effect.
From the beginning of time God entrusted humans to be the earth’s stewards. While “subdue the earth and rule it” may not pass as politically correct speech, it simply means we have the privilege of managing and caring for God’s creation—and we must do it responsibly.
Environmental stewardship is not complex; it simply means that we should care for, manage, and nurture that which we have been given. Let’s face it: our ark of life is changing rapidly. As a young boy, my grandfather could drink from a stream without concern; I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing today.
There was a time when you could still hear the saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Today, that expression would be met with amusement, ridicule, or outright contempt. The drive to earn more so we can buy more may boost the economy, but it may also do great harm to our world ecology.
Why We Don’t Care
The cause of most environmental problems is rooted in human indifference, shortsightedness, selfishness, and greed. Some Christians seem to have dropped the ball we’ve been mandated to carry. All the while, the world ecological crisis continues to deepen.
We take our family on a picnic to enjoy God’s creation but don’t consider the utensils, plates, and napkins we throw out after a single use in the process. There is a cost to convenience. In reality, it doesn’t take much more time or effort to pack up regular utensils, plates, and cloth napkins and wash them at home.
The earth was designed to sustain every generation’s needs, not one generation’s wants. Sadly, most people, and Christians in particular, don’t seem to care. Even though we have been commissioned by God to be environmental caretakers, many seem unconcerned about the condition of the earth.
The 1970s was rife with a system of thought that believed since Jesus was returning soon and the earth was going to burn up, we might as well use it up. Many Christians who had once seen the value of protecting the environment lost their ideals. I’m not sure we’ve recovered.
Today many Christians are afraid to become environmental caretakers for fear they will be labeled New Agers. Still, the fact that many in the new age movement are environmental activists is no reason for us not to be.
Accountable to God
Some Christians mistakenly believe the earth does not matter in the eternal scheme of things. Not so. Because God created everything, he owns everything. It is only on loan to us; we are not owners but caretakers. And
according to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, we will be held accountable to God for what we do with the resources we have been given.
A balanced Christian faith requires ecological sensitivity. We must acknowledge the responsibility and privilege we have been given as stewards of the earth.
Earth is the canvas upon which God painted the masterpiece of the human race. Without the canvas however, the paint has nothing to cling to. The canvas (earth) is essential to our physical survival.
Human life is more important than a lake or a tree. But without the lakes and trees—and the rest of nature—human survival would be impossible.
An irresponsible attitude toward the environment contributes to poor health as we regularly consume carcinogens and other toxins through air, food, and water. We are not only hurting the earth; we are harming ourselves.
Perhaps we have yet to discover a cure for cancer among an endangered species of plant or animal. Perhaps a potential cure for AIDS has already been destroyed. These are real possibilities we must take into consideration as we go about our daily lives.
How many inventions of the last 50 years have contributed to the care and protection of our earth? How many subtract? It’s staggering if we think about it. And yet we continue to be consumers of these products.
The Bible describes creation as something groaning in pain, waiting for its own redemption (see Romans 8:22). That may surprise us, but if the earth is that important to God, shouldn’t it be to us as well?
Thomas Aquinas said, “Any error about creation also leads to an error about God.“ We are fooling ourselves if we think God is not concerned about the environment.
The first chapter of Romans reveals that all of humanity knows there is a God because God has revealed himself, and his very nature, through creation. Of all people, Christians should have respect for the natural world God created.
The universe is a product of God’s mind. It reflects his personality just as an artist’s worldview and mood can be perceived from a painting. Creation is one way we get to know God.
“The power of God is present at all places, even in the tiniest tree leaf. . . . God is entirely and personally present in the wilderness, in the garden, and in the field,” said Martin Luther. If God’s power and creativity are displayed in everything, then we have no alternative but to care for the earth in the best possible way.
No matter what is going on in my life, I feel a sense of peace when I am near a body of water. Whether it’s a stream, river, lake, or ocean, God ministers to me in this environment. For you, it may be a garden, a mountaintop, or a forest. Nature is good because it is God’s work. Creation care is an act of worship.
Caring for God’s earth is a lifelong biblical mandate that is to be passed down from generation to generation.
Alone we cannot save the earth; together we can honor God by caring for his planet. How do we do it? By learning to reshape our lives to honor rather than destroy God’s creation.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
Learn More About Our Stewardship of the Environment
Keeping God’s Earth: The Global Environment in Biblical Perspective
by Noah J. Toly & Daniel I. Block (IVP Academics, 2010)
For the Beauty of the Earth, 2nd Edition: A Christian Vision for Creation Care
by Steven Bouma-Prediger (Baker Academic, 2010)
Our Father’s World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation
by Edward R. Brown (IVP Books, 2008)
Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action
by J. Matthew Sleeth (Zondervan, 2007)
Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet
by Jonathan Merritt (FaithWords, 2010)
Simple Ways to Care for the Earth
Seemingly small steps can make a big difference in
caring for God’s creation. For example, recycling just one aluminum can reduces waste and saves enough energy to run a computer for three hours.
The following are just some ways we can be environmental caretakers in our everyday lives:
• Choose to walk or bike instead of drive.
• Recycle more.
• Fix water leaks.
• Use public transportation or carpool.
• Buy local produce.
• Use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.
• Put on a sweater instead of turning up the thermostat.
• Plant trees.
• Turn off lights when not in use.
• Insulate your home.
• Maintain proper tire pressure.
• Hang clothes out to dry.
• Stop purchasing bottled water.
• Advocate for clean air laws.
• Create backyard habitats.