Some Christians regard the planet with a “let the Earth burn” attitude. When it comes to environmentalism, some seem to care less about the planet. This comes from several different ideologies. Some Christians believe that the planet is only going to last so long so they feel that taking care of the planet or their local ecosystem is pointless. Other Christians believe that because some people put the creation before the Creator of the planet, they should separate themselves from those people. The question becomes, what should a Christian believe about environmentalism?
Let me start out with a disclaimer: I am going to address whether or not Christians should care about the environment. I will not be addressing how we should take care of the planet and to what degree.
Let’s start by addressing the two questions posed above. First, to the Christian who does not care about the environment because they believe that the planet will be destroyed one day. I would argue that you do not know when that will happen. If we knew the end of the world would be tomorrow, maybe we could act differently. To be careless with the environment because one day the planet won’t exist is poor wisdom.
What about the second idea of separating yourself from worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. Romans 1:25 does say that there are some who worship creation rather than the Creator. Their first mission, focal point, purpose of existence, and what some idolize is what has been created, not the Creator Himself. This truth does not give the Christian an excuse to ignore the environment. It doesn’t say, “Worship God, and ignore the environment.” It just says, don’t put the Earth ahead of Earth’s Creator. Understand the scale of values. While we don’t worship “mother earth” there are plenty of things we can do to be good stewards of our planet.
What else does Scripture say on whether or not we should care for the environment? Taking care of the planet was a part of man’s original purpose. In Genesis 1:28-30, God gave Adam dominion over the planet. The Hebrew word for “dominion” means to rule, to govern, or it can mean to subdue. The idea can also be to manage it. So Adam is called to take care of the planet. He’s not just called to use it, but to make sure that he is overseeing it in a proper way so that it runs well. In some aspects to make sure it keeps running smoothly.
The planet is one of God’s gifts to us. Reading throughout the beginning of Genesis we see that God took great care to make this planet for us. We can look around and see that it is well ordered and beautiful. While talking to author and professor Glenn Sunshine about this, he pointed something out to me that I had never considered. In Genesis 2:9 he noted that the trees that God planted in the garden were for beauty and function. Regarding the trees, the Bible says that they were “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” God didn’t just give us the planet for functional purposes, but also for beauty to enjoy. If the planet is God’s gift to us, and a beautiful one at that, we should take care of it.
We also should take care of the planet for the sake of others. The Christian ethic is to love others and treat each other better than ourselves. If this is true about how we speak to each other, work and employ each other, act to each other as neighbors, why wouldn’t it be true of how we treat our environment? If we know something would harm our environment in a way that would harm others, we should think through our ethical approach of that activity.
Again, I’m not going to get into how we need to take care of the environment. I know that debate is hot and heavy. We could make a scale of “zero impact” to total carelessness, and we’d all be on different points on that scale. I just wanted to make sure that we are all on the same title page and realize that caring for the planet is part of the Christian ethic. There are little things you can do. Every time I hike, fish, or hunt, I try to bring more trash out than I take in. Several years ago my friend and I spent several hours cleaning the trash out of a local lake where we fish. We can all do little things to make our environment better, reflecting gratitude to our Creator for His beautiful creation.
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