In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
In response to Earth Day, I wanted to share two books I believe are helpful for Christians as they consider a biblical approach for stewarding creation.
The first is Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology by Francis Shaeffer.
The second is A Different Shade of Green: A Biblical Approach to Environmentalism and the Dominion Mandate by Gordon Wilson.
I’m sure there are other books worthy of mention, but I chose these two as both are approachable and lay the groundwork for a healthy view of godly dominion.
Environmentalism is a hot topic these days and for good reason. Our lives are interconnected to the health and well-being of our environment. But, there’s more to it than that. The manner in which we steward and rule over creation is a worship and obedience issue. Although environmentalism as a political movement contains many shortcomings and pitfalls, Christians have too often ignored and scoffed at our responsibility before God to steward and rule over His world in a way that honors Him as the good Creator.
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1
In speaking to my children about our responsibility before God, I told them the story below. It may be helpful so I’ll share it with you as well.
Upon his death, an incredible artist left his most prized work of art to his son. It was the painting he had poured his heart and life into more than any other and was considered a priceless masterpiece.
The son took the beautiful painting and threw it up in his attic where it collected dust. In time, he even stacked boxes and junk up against it so that it was hardly visible behind the piles.
When talking with others who were interested in his father, the son often spoke of his love and admiration for the man and how much respect he had for his artistic talent. One evening, he shared with an acquaintance that his father had left him his most brilliant and priceless painting.
The individual was fascinated and asked if he could see it. The son agreed. Of course, the individual had expected to see it displayed in a place of honor and well taken care of and was shocked and horrified when the son took him up into the attic to see it dusty, hidden behind junk, and ill-treated. Even so, the man could see the painting was very special.
“I thought you said you loved your father and had great respect for him as an artist?” He exclaimed turning to the son.
“I do,” the son replied.
“The way you have treated your father’s masterpiece says something different. You have not only dishonored him but all those who could have shared in the glory of this great work of art and benefitted from knowing and experiencing its goodness and beauty. Your father entrusted you with his life’s work because you are his child, but instead of using this piece to bring your father glory, you have abused and diminished it. A stranger with an appreciation for your father’s work would have done better.”
Did the son’s treatment of his father’s masterpiece give evidence of what the son claimed to be true of his father and how he claimed to feel about his father?
Did the son steward the painting in such a way that others were invited to enjoy it and glorify his father?
How does this story relate to our responsibility before God concerning His creation?
Christians of all people should recognize the good gift of creation and seek to honor God in the way we rule over it for we know God personally and recognize Him as the good Creator of all that is seen and unseen, and we acknowledge that everything was created through Him and also for Him.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Colossians 1:15-17
The way we steward God’s creation is part of our testimony before the world as to who God is and the honor due Him. Secularists may miss the boat in their worship of creation in place of the Creator, but Christians all too often miss the opportunity to rule over God’s world in such a way that we let our good deeds shine so that everyone will praise our heavenly Father, (Matthew 5:16).
Until Christ returns, our world will groan under the weight of sin, as will we, but just as God’s work of making all things new has begun in those who place their faith in Him, it also flows out from His people to bring relief and renewal to all things.
One day, this work will be complete, and we will have new resurrected, incorruptible bodies and live in the new heaven and new earth where death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be no more (Revelation 21:1-7). As we eagerly await that day, we are already living as new creations in the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and that should be reflected in all of life including the way we rule over creation (Romans 8:19-25).
If we aim to do better, we need to know better. Although the above books do not lay out a concrete and thorough plan of action as this topic is diverse and complicated, the authors take us back to scripture giving us a biblical foundation from which to move from ignorance and apathy into knowledge and responsibility. That’s a good place to start.