The Christian and the Environment

The Christian and the Environment

Earth day

Since 1970, April 22 has been observed as Earth Day, a day to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Such a day causes me to consider whether or not we as Christians possess a biblical responsibility to protect the environment. And I believe the following four biblical considerations are worth mentioning on this matter.

First, Christians should care about the environment because God created it. In the very first verse of the Bible, we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The remainder of Genesis 1 describes how God created the atmosphere, land, sea (1:6-10), and everything that inhabits those regions, such as plants, animals, and humans (1:11-12, 20-21, 24-26). Then, after each day of creation, God reflected on what He had made and declared it to be “good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). As a result, our environment is inherently valuable. God created it, and God pronounced it to be “good.” Those two facts ought to awaken a sense of appreciation for creation simply because we esteem the work of our Father.

Second, Christians should care about the environment because God cares about it. Since God created our environment, it falls under His ownership. David understood this and proclaimed in Psalm 24:1-2, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Thus, it stands to reason that if God is the owner of our environment, then He has the right to dictate how it is used. That is why you will find specific instructions in Mosaic Law outlining the proper use of creation. His instructions protect land and animals from overuse (Leviticus 25:3-7; Deuteronomy 5:13-14), abuse (Deuteronomy 25:4), and extinction (Deuteronomy 20:19-20; 22:6-7). So, God demonstrated His care for creation by dictating how it is to be used and how it is to be protected. God’s care for creation is so great that Jesus used it to illustrate God’s care for humanity. In Matthew 6:26-30, Jesus, in effect, said, “Do you want to know how much God cares about you? Just look at how much He cares about the birds and the flowers.” So, if God cares this much about the environment, shouldn’t we also care about it?

Third, Christians should care about the environment because creation provides evidence of God. Scripture declares that the natural world can reveal God to unbelievers. The psalmist said, “The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory” (Psalm 97:6). And Paul stated that God’s “invisible attributes,” particularly “his eternal power and divine nature” have been revealed to humankind “ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). These passages indicate that creation possesses the power to proclaim God’s presence to people. As those tasked with the mission of telling the world about God, we should care about the environment because it is another proof of His existence.

Finally, Christians should care about the environment because God assigned us the task of ruling over creation. When God created humanity, He said, “let them have dominion over the fish of the sea…over the birds of the heavens…over the livestock…over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Then He instructed the first man and woman to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). The Hebrew terms translated “have dominion” and “subdue” refer to rulership and subjugation. In other words, God put His creation under our authority. One of the psalmists summarized this well when he said, “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man” (Psalm 115:16). So, Scripture asserts that the earth was designed for our use. But Scripture also says that we are responsible for using it appropriately. In Leviticus 26:14-16, God warned the Israelites of the consequences if they failed to obey His commands, which included instructions regarding care for creation (Leviticus 25:3-7). God said, “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments,…then I will do this to you,” and He went on to identify several environmental consequences that would come as a result of their failed obedience (Leviticus 26:16-33). Then God indicated that Israel’s disobedience would eventually result in their exile, and their exile would allow the environment, which they abused, to recover (Leviticus 26:34-35). While these environmental instructions and consequences are not repeated in the New Testament, their presence in the Old Testament demonstrates God’s great concern for how we use the earth and the environmental accountability that God expects of His people. Thus, as Christians, we should care about the environment because we are stewards of creation, and, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:1, “it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”

The goal of this article is not to advocate for a particular political agenda or environmental cause. Nor is it to dictate what environmental issues should matter to Christians or how Christians should get involved in such matters. The goal of this article is to provide a biblical basis for why Christians should care about the environment so that we will seek to be faithful stewards in ALL things “that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).