Extreme weather associated with climate change, rapid biodiversity loss, rampant deforestation, depleting non-renewable resources, waste and pollution, and the pressure of accelerating population growth are all urgent and important problems demanding a response. You don’t have to go too far to hear the earth groaning. As Christians, we can sometimes set sustainability issues aside in our mind, as we long for the new creation. But Natalie Mayer gives us four Biblical reasons why it’s more important than ever for believers to care for creation:
#1: Because God created and sustains the world, and it belongs to him
The Bible teaches that everything – from the sun and the stars to insects and atoms – was created by God through Jesus Christ.
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’
‘Through [Christ] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’
It may be a surprise to some that God did not create the earth and everything in it for humans. Rather, he has made it for his Son, who was intimately involved in its creation.
‘For in [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.’
Moreover, the partnership between God and Jesus for the created world does not end there. Instead of passively abandoning the world after creating it, God actively continues to sustain it moment by moment, through Christ.
‘[Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’
‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.’
Our Creator God is also the owner of his creation. Every single thing he has made belongs to him.
‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.’
‘for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.’
Nowhere in scripture does God give up his ownership of creation, or assign it over to us, and therefore we have no right to treat creation however we please. Rather, as people who love the Lord and endeavour to follow his Son Jesus, it makes sense that we respect what is made by him, what is sustained by him, and what belongs to him.
#2: Because God cares for his creation
In Genesis 1 we learn about the creation of the earth and all living things. Sea creatures and birds are created on the fifth day (v20-23) and land animals on the sixth day (v24-25). Before God creates humankind, he calls what he had created ‘good’ (v21,25) and blesses his creatures (v22). Therefore creation has intrinsic value to the Lord – outside of its usefulness to humans.
In Genesis 7 we read about the flood that God brings as judgement on a corrupt and violent world (v11-12). God is merciful, and saves Noah and his family from destruction. Yet God’s mercy extends beyond humankind. He also saves part of his creation – two of every kind of living creature are sent to Noah and are housed safely in the ark in order to repopulate the earth. After the flood, God again shows that he cares for his creation by making a covenant with the earth and its creatures, promising never to destroy them by flood again (v13,16).
These and other Biblical instances show that God cares deeply for his creation, e.g. Psalm 65:9-13, and the earth responds in joy to his care (v13). As Christians, we are called to care about what God cares about, and imitate him. Therefore, since God cares for the earth and all living creatures, we must care for them too.
#3: Because creation reflects God’s glory and is a witness to him
Creation is a living testimony to God and his glory (Romans 1:20) and just by being, praises the Lord (Psalm 148). If we do not care for creation as we should, we are preventing it from reflecting God’s glory fully.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
9 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
#4: Because God has called us to be stewards over his creation
In Genesis, God establishes our role as human beings. He sets us up as rulers over his creation (Gen 1:28), but it still ultimately belongs to him (Lev 25:23). This is called stewardship, and we are God’s stewards.
‘God blessed [Adam and Eve] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”’
‘..the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants’
But what does this stewardship look like?
‘Rule’ (‘dominion’ in older texts) should not be confused with domination or destruction. Indeed, as John Stott puts it, “it would be ludicrous to suppose that God first created the earth and then handed it over to us to destroy it.” Rather, we should rule as God rules, to allow the flourishing of all creation, with justice and righteousness (Psalm 72).
‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’
Genesis 2:15 literally means “serve and protect” the Garden, which is representative of creation. So our rule over creation should be one of service and protection. We are to carry out this role of serving, protective stewards until Jesus returns (Luke 12:41-48).
The Christian response
In summary, Christians should care for creation because:
- Creation was made by God, through and for Jesus – and we must respect what belongs to him.
- God cares for creation – and we must imitate him, caring about what he cares about.
- Creation is a witness to God and his glory – and we must not hinder this.
- God has made us stewards of creation until Jesus returns – and we are to serve and protect the Garden until then.
- Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living by Nick Spencer and Robert White
- When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry
- For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger
- Issues Facing Christians Today (Chapter 5: Caring for Creation) 4th Edition by John Stott
- The Radical Disciple (Chapter 4: Creation-care) by John Stott