I’m getting so tired of Christians mocking the idea of climate change on the basis that God is in control and it’s arrogant to think that we can affect His world. Some of the people most vocally against any efforts to care for our planet are the ones who believe it is a gift from a benevolent creator!
I suppose part of the reason for this is political. In the United States, we’ve turned environmental concerns into a partisan issue and since most Christians are Right-leaning they certainly can’t support any idea associated with the Left. Personally, I find this whole thing ridiculous. Not only should our planet’s health concern everyone, but as Christians we’re not supposed to get so involved in worldly affairs that we can only listen to one side of an issue like this. Rather, we’re called to be citizens of a heavenly country with priorities that transcend political parties.
Another reason for the argument that we can do whatever we want to the earth has to do with God’s words in Genesis. “God said to them [Adam and Eve], ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28, WEB). The word “subdue” comes from the Hebrew kabash (H3533) and it means to subject, conquer, keep under, and bring into bondage.
But there’s also something else that God told man about how to deal with the earth. “Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, WEB). The word translated “cultivate” (abad H5647) refers to working and serving. The word for “keep” is shamar (H8104), and it’s about guarding something you have charge over. It’s what you do when something is precious and requires careful attention. For example, it’s the word used when Israel is told to keep God’s covenant and sabbaths (Ex. 19:5; 31:13-14) and when God is described as keeping/preserving His people (Ps. 37:28; 89:28).
I’m pretty sure that if we were keeping the earth in this sense we wouldn’t be filling it with trash or spewing toxic chemicals all over it.
The Principle of Stewardship
You might argue that we weren’t explicitly told to “keep” the whole earth — that this instruction only applied to Adam and Eve’s responsibilities in the Garden of Eden. So let’s go back to that word “subdue.” I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that once you subdue something what you do with it is your responsibility. And the Bible is pretty clear about how we’re supposed to care for the things we’re responsible for.
He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:10-12, WEB)
The earth will be here for as long as God needs/wants it to be. But the condition that it’s in until He decides to bring this world to a close with the return of Jesus Christ is, at least to a certain extent, our responsibility. We’ve been given this earth to look after, but it does not belong to us. “The earth is Yahweh’s, with its fullness; the world, and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1, WEB). He care about how we take care of it because our attitude toward caring for things on this earth (including the earth itself) tells Him something about our character. It tells us whether or not He can trust us with eternal life.
We can’t do much to improve the health of the planet on our own. Many environmental problems are related to things outside our control. But the fact that other people, companies, or countries aren’t acting as responsible stewards of the planet doesn’t let us off the hook for our individual contributions. Using less plastic, foregoing toxic chemicals, and choosing products that can be reused instead of thrown away are choices we each have the power make.
I’ve been using Pinterest to collect tips, products, and articles related to living in a more environmentally responsible way. You can check that out here if you’re looking for ideas on how to get started on your own quest to be a better steward of God’s world.