Author: Madi Keaton, ’18. Environmental Science
In my literature class, we were discussing the role of the Church in earth stewardship.
A student raised his hand and said, “I don’t think the Church should do anything. We are called to spread the Gospel, not care for the earth.”
Church, have we forgotten some of the most well-known verses in the Bible?
In Genesis 1:31, the Bible states, “And God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good.” Before God created man, He created the Earth. And He saw it as very good. This alone is reason enough to care when we pollute the oceans and overhunt the deer. As servants of God, we ought not to exploit and waste what He sees as good. Beyond this, it is clear that God’s creation is not only good in His eyes, but valuable.
For example, the Bible makes many references to birds, including, “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them,” (Matthew 6:26) and “Are not five sparrows sold for two pence? And not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God,” (Luke 12:6). If God feeds and cares for even the small sparrow, it is clear that He values and loves them. Shouldn’t we as well?
That’s not to say that swatting at a fly buzzing around our face is a sin.
But evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer states, “We have the right to rid our house of ants; but what we have no right to do is to forget to honor the ant as God made it, out in the place where God made the ant to be. When we meet the ant on the sidewalk, we step over him. He is a creature, like ourselves; not made in the image of God, it is true, but equal with man as far as creation is concerned.”
And, yes, Francis is right, humans are made in the image of God, but does that mean a license to destroy? Have we forgotten that the first task that God gave to man was to tend Creation?
“And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it,” (Genesis 2:15).
This was not a job simply for Adam and Eve. We are all in our respective gardens, wherever we are living on this earth. We are to dress and keep our environment, and you can be sure that doesn’t include oil spills in the ocean and cities of people choked with smog.
Furthermore, “The earth is Jehovah’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods,” (Psalm 24:1-2).
We must remember that the Earth was created not for our benefit, but for His benefit. It was not created solely as an environment to house us. If God were to ask you to take care of His house while He was away, would you break all of the windows, throw trash on the floor, and skin His cat? When Christ returns, His earth may well be handed back to Him corroded, polluted, and ugly. To what degree will you or I be held responsible?
God also uses the beauty and magnificence of creation to show His omnipotence: “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the birds of the heavens, and they shall tell thee: or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these, that the hand of Jehovah hath wrought this, in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:7-10).
Many times throughout the Bible, God reveals Himself through Creation. We see Him in the tallest of mountains, the division of a cell, and in the rebirth of life from dead organic matter. Life is a complex, wonderful miracle brought about by the power of God.
If all of this wasn’t enough to convince you that Christians are called to be stewards of the Earth, meditate on the fact that environmental destruction is disproportionately affecting the world’s poor.
Church, it is the world’s poor that drink polluted water, have their livelihoods destroyed by polluted soil, and cannot afford to leave the polluted areas that they call home. The Bible tells us to “…do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the poor and needy: deliver them out of the hand of the wicked,” (Psalm 82:3-4).
Until we recognize and change how our waste, destruction, and overconsumption of natural resources affects others, and do something to change, we cannot fulfill the second great commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Whatever we do “to one of the least of these,” we do to Christ (Matthew 25:40). Our actions, particularly as wealthy Americans, have drastic effects on poorer communities across the globe.
I believe that as Christians we have a responsibility to the earth and have been failing miserably. The Bible clearly tells us that the Earth is important to God and that it is our job to be caretakers. What better way to show our love for God than by caring for what He has made—plants, animals, and humans alike?