How does Environment relate to the Bible?
~ And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 ~
When I was growing up, very little attention was given to the environment, global warming or pollution. The first time that I can remember talking about this topic was in grade 9 biology and the unit was brief. This has not been the experience for my children. Over the past few weeks Simon and Sophie have been learning about the environment, specifically about reducing their carbon footprint (reducing greenhouse gas emissions). Sophie, in particular, seemed to resonate with the concept and began focusing on our family’s recycling efforts. She also organized a small cadre of fellow classmates to pick up garbage at school. Simon was able to articulate these finer points as well but was not too interested in participating in Sophie’s projects.
Yet it was Simon who extended his learning by making the biblical link between the environment and creation during a Beaver excursion (part of the Boy Scouts) a couple of Saturdays ago. We were planting trees in a field no longer used to produce crops. Arriving with a large contingent of other Scouting groups, Simon listened intently about how to plant trees ensuring that they would survive. As we worked, Simon began to talk about how we were helping the environment as trees provide oxygen that we needed to breathe. Before I could make a comment, he continued to say, “We are looking after God’s creation because He gave it to us to take care of.” Of course he was right.
Genesis 1:28 talks about how God gave the earth to Adam and Eve and their descendants to subdue. The word subdue is quite interesting as it can mean to bring under control, subjugate, conquer or overwhelm. Human history can testify to our use of the world and how we have “subdued” the creation. In fact, people who don’t care much about the environment or do not “believe” in global warming, could use this verse to justify the continuing pillaging of the earth’s resources without considering its impact. However, when God gave us creation, I don’t think that this was His intention. What God truly had meant by “subdue” for us was destroyed when sin entered the world. But greed has gotten the best of everyone. We want our profit margins and dividends to increase so we can live more comfortably. We all want “stuff” but the creation of that “stuff” harms the planet. When it is suggested that we do without something, we argue that we can’t live without it and continue in our ways. Genesis 1:28, I believe, calls us to be stewards of creation. That means we aren’t the owners; God is. Our job, as stewards, is to look after creation and even though we have done a terrible job of it, we are not excused from our responsibilities.
Simon made the link between taking responsibility for the environment and looking after God’s creation in a simple and effective way. He saw our activity with the Scouts, not as a small token environmentalism, but as looking after what God has given to use. Simon saw himself as God’s steward. Simon talked passionately about how he enjoyed walking through the forest looking at the animals and camping with the family. While I definitely can’t speak for God, I believe that is why He made the earth, so that we could enjoy it and by enjoying it experience the wonders of His power and majesty. So, what is stopping you from being a better steward of creation? Where can you make a difference? We all have roles to play in recycling, in responsible investment in corporations that do not harm the environment, in planting trees or even in picking up trash that isn’t yours. If there is anything that we should be “subduing” it is the harm that we have and continue to do to our Creator’s world.