No matter what your take on issues like global warming or climate change, there are certain things on which we should all be able to agree – taking good care of our planet ought to be a no-brainer.
Are there some folks out there with crazy ideas about how to “save the planet” that defy logic? Certainly. Are ALL people who show concern for the environment nuts? Nope. But the whacky notions do seem to get our attention. That can cause our view of all “green” efforts to be skewed.
Many people hold the opinion that global warming is one of the most important issues of our time. They believe that climate change is a direct result of mankind’s influence through carbon emissions, the burning of fossil fuels, polluting the oceans, etc. Others feel the whole idea of man-made climate change is simply impossible, and that it’s all a big hoax designed to force a certain level of control on the populous by governmental bureaucrats for the purpose of making money.
Regardless of where we might land on this spectrum, our focus as Christians should be on what the Bible says. How does God view the Earth? When He entrusted His creation into our care, what did that mean? What do the scriptures indicate our responsibility to be in regard to being good stewards of what He gave us?
Personal Views vs. God’s Perspective
There’s an old saying about opinions that essentially states, “everybody has them.” If you have ten people in a room, you might have ten different opinions about a given topic. On the subject of environmental awareness, there are polarizing positions that are diametrically opposed to one another. Posit it to that room of ten people, and it’s highly unlikely that everyone will agree.
As previously mentioned, however, there is a perspective that trumps our own varying viewpoints every time. That’s God’s perspective. How do we know what His view is? That part is easy – we look to His Word.
His Creation Has Value
The Bible tells us in Genesis that God created the heavens and the Earth and all living things. Everything we see, all that exists which we don’t see, it was all brought to be by Him. At each stopping point of creation, God looked at what He had made and proclaimed that it was good. There is intrinsic value in it.
When a car manufacturer produces cars, they have value based on the materials and energy used, the labor, and the time invested. How much more then does God’s creation have a naturally existing value just because He deemed it worthy of His time and effort?! And where there is value, there is a need to protect and preserve that value.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;Psalm 24:1 [NIV]
Dominion Given to Mankind
After God created everything else, He made man in His own likeness. He then gave man dominion over all of creation. It was Adam’s job to give names to all the animals, but that was only the beginning. Mankind is supposed to protect and preserve the value of all creation to the best of his ability.
Having dominion is a great responsibility. It involves carefully considering every encounter with livestock, produce, and other natural resources so that a balance is maintained between what is used for our benefit (consumption and otherwise) and conserving and replenishing those resources. If we are unwise or careless with our charge over creation, it will be to our own detriment. Taking care of the Earth and the creatures that inhabit it is a matter of being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”Genesis 1:26 [ESV]
Today we have organizations like PETA that try to tell us what is or isn’t an “ethical” way to treat animals. Good intentions are just that, but sometimes the individual views get a bit wonky. I believe the Bible does imply that we should treat all of God’s creatures with a certain amount of honor and respect because He made them. But there is also a clearly established hierarchy within creation, and humans are definitely above animals. Does that mean we can treat animals how ever we choose? Of course not! As I just said, God’s Word implies by merit of who created them that we ought not mistreat His creatures.
But mankind wasn’t made like everything else. God made man in His own image, and THAT makes us uniquely special. He did not give all dominion to the lion or any other such creature, but He instead gave that charge to mankind who was made in God’s very likeness. So those who take the so-called “treatment of animals” argument to the extreme of equating the animals’ rights to man’s rights are incorrect. By sheer virtue of being made in God’s image, human beings have a level of intrinsic value and rights that animals do not have. Again, we must protect and preserve and treat all creatures as precious and valuable – but not as equal to mankind, let alone as superior.
Extremes and Excuses
If you are like me, you may be guilty of allowing certain extreme environmental views to jade your thinking. I’ll admit that I’ve been foolish enough in the past to let some radical opinions become an excuse for me to take a completely opposite stance without considering the Biblical take on the subject. I have even self-righteously made comments that I immediately regretted.
No, I don’t personally think there is evidence to support the idea of man-made climate change. But while I may feel that notion is foolish, that does not give me license to take an equally foolish position on the other extreme. In the example of using styrofoam cups, which is not at all environmentally friendly, I have made the ridiculous statement in the past that “it’s all gonna burn some day” as my supposed biblical excuse to keep doing it. That was not only stupid of me to say, but it’s in stark contrast to what our Christian view should be.
While it’s true that this Earth will indeed pass away one day, that’s not a valid reason to be a bad steward of the planet today. Saying something like that also perpetuates a stereotypical opinion many people have of Christians. It paints us as self-righteous and uncaring, and that’s not at all like Jesus. I wasn’t only giving myself an excuse to be a bad steward, but I was being a terrible excuse for a Christian.
Creator vs. Creation
There are still others who take ecology to the extreme of placing the Earth, moon, or stars in a position of deity. They worship creation rather than the One who created it. Mankind was designed to worship. This is a natural behavior that is ingrained in our DNA. But we are meant to worship God – not the planet or any other created thing.
“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods…Exodus 20:3-5 [NLT]
Not only are we to worship God alone, but we should never exalt creation above Him. That is idolatry. As Christians, we know that He is the Creator of all things, great and small, seen and unseen.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.Hebrews 11:3 [ESV]
I think the scriptures make it pretty clear that we ought to be taking proper care of all that God has placed in our hands. That obviously includes this world, the trees and plants, the animals, our natural resources, etc. If recycling is a way to help reduce waste and pollution, then we should do that. If there are ways to conserve and protect our forests and oceans, then we should do that.
Supporting businesses that provide goods without mistreating animals is another thing we can do. While I don’t equate the life of a chicken to the life of a human being, I still think it’s awful to subject chickens to the conditions in which I’ve seen some – bred and raised in mass numbers and kept caged up and packed into a miserable existence for the sake of making more money rather than treating them with a little more dignity. That’s my opinion, and your personal convictions may be different.
But we can all agree – or should – that the Bible gives us some clear instructions on how we ought to be good caretakers of that over which God gave us dominion. Perhaps one of the best reasons why we should take great care of it is that His glory and wonder and splendor are revealed and reflected through the grandeur of His amazing and awesome creation – it’s like a gigantic billboard that says, “See all this beauty? God did this!”
Frankly, when it comes to conservation, Christians ought to be leading the way.