Is God an environmentalist?
April 22 is Earth Day. Some people celebrate by planting trees or picking up litter in a park. Others chain themselves to trees or engage in other publicity stunts.
With all the talk of saving the earth and environmentalism, what is a Christian’s responsibility in taking care of the earth?
Stewards of Creation
The Bible teaches that God created the Earth and everything in it (Genesis 1:1). He created humans in His own likeness, and gave us the responsibility to care for the rest of His creation (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:15).
But the earth is not ours to do with it as we please (Psalm 24:1). It is entrusted to us by the Creator (Psalm 8:6-8). That sounds like He’s concerned with and advocates for the protection of the environment — in other words, God is the original environmentalist.
In the Old Testament, God laid out his plan for preserving the earth while providing for his people. He commanded that each section of land used for growing food be planted and harvested for six years, then left to rest the seventh year. During this year of rest, the soil would have time to replenish nutrients, ensuring it would continue to produce food for many years to come (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7). God created a system that provides for the flourishing of both humans and His creation.
God created a system that provides for the flourishing of both humans and His creation.
As stewards, we are to take care of the earth, not abuse it. If we want to continue to enjoy the many resources God gave us, we have to exercise diligent and intelligent care in protecting and preserving them.
Creation Points to a Creator
Our care for the earth should not be only for what we can gain out of it. Another important reason to preserve the natural beauty of God’s creation is that it points people to the Creator.
Romans 1:20 says: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made...”
The beauty and majesty of God are on display in all that He made. From the highest mountains to the coral reefs on the ocean floor, all of God’s creation points to a Creator. The Bible speaks of creation worshiping God and bringing Him glory (Psalm 148; Isaiah 55:12).
Our mission as stewards of the earth is about more than preserving resources. We should also want to preserve the environment because it brings God glory and points people to the Creator. We do not care for the earth because we want to worship or glorify it; we care for the earth because it stirs us to worship and glorify the One who created it.
It’s Not About Me
Our responsibility to care for the earth is another reminder that it’s not about us. Like many things in the Christian life, being good stewards of the earth means we have to shift the focus off of ourselves. This change of perspective encourages us to carefully evaluate how we are using resources and our attitude toward living a sustainable lifestyle in a consumer-driven culture of convenience.
The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus died for animals or trees. However, He did take great care in designing them and entrusted them to us. Contrary to the way many of us assume, God evidently thought so highly of living creatures that He included them in a covenant relationship along with people (Genesis 9:8-17). The Bible also describes how Jesus will bring peace between all things — including people, animals, and land — in the new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 11:1-10).
Our priority is and always should be telling others the Good News of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). But, we discredit our testimony by neglecting to care about the world God created.
Like we celebrate and use the gifts God has given us — like spiritual gifts to serve others, like relationships that sustain us in community — one part of living in obedience and gratitude to God is being good stewards of His gift, the earth.
A Stewardship Attitude
As stewards, we are held accountable for our actions. While there is no simple, effective way we can stop others from polluting rivers or wasting energy, we can control our own attitude and actions when it comes to caring for God’s creation.
Does that mean we should each take another look at carpooling to work, producing less trash, recycling, or using less energy at home? Ask God how you can best enjoy and care for the earth like He enjoys and cares for the earth.
If God is the original environmentalist, why wouldn’t those of us who want to follow Him also want to care for creation? The actions we take can cultivate deeper faith in the Creator and point more people toward Him.