By Curt Gesch
Has anyone ever wondered what the Bible has to say about protecting the environment?
Consider Genesis 2:15: The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
An older version has it as “dress it and keep it.” Another has it “tend it and keep it.”
It’s God’s charge to us to be the keepers of creation.
Let’s think about it. The same attitude God has towards his people is the attitude Adam was to have towards the creation.
Far from abusing creation, Adam was to reflect the Creator by being a creation-keeper.
According to Dr. Calvin de Witt, an American scholar who looks at the environment through the perspective of a Christian, we are called to be guard’ners of creation.
Those people who act as if the creation is just a disposable product are wrong.
Those who (sometimes by misunderstanding the Bible) treat the creation as something with the sole purpose of meeting human needs. . . they are simply not following what God has said.
Those who think the creation-care is just a passing fad, something that will end with a rapture. . . they are not reading Genesis rightly.
People have all sorts of informed or uniformed opinions about just what we should think about environmental issues. I think it is a bad error to act as is those who think the data support global warming are right and everyone else wrong. Those who think the data shows that the earth is going through a climatic cycle, not a big time of climate change may be on to something, but they, too, should not be condemnatory.
Whether one takes this view of things or that view, the Biblical teaching is supposed to be normative for Christians.
So, no matter where you stand politically or scientifically when you buy a car, you should ask whether your choice is something that reflects a guardian character towards creation or a selfish one.
When you think about the use of chemicals on your lawn, or gardens, or farms, or when you buy food, you should ask, “Are my choices reflecting the character of God? Am a person who asks that God’s creation be treating gently and with respect?”
When you think about the oil sands, or the Enbridge pipeline proposal, Christians should ask themselves, “Do these projects treat human beings, plants, animals, fish, and birds in a way that reflects an attitude of guarding, preserving, protecting: keeping creation?”
When I turn a piece of marsh into a field, am I considering God’s mandate? When I turn a field into a wildlife preserve, am I worshipping a nature goddess, “mother earth,” or am I trying to honour the Creator of all by emulating the way he treats his people and his creation: with loving care, using power to enrich and to serve and to set free?
Do I want more spring salmon, or steelheads just so that I can get more recreation? Or food? Or tourist dollars? Or are these things a blessing, a “side-benefit” you might say, of obedience to God?
When I work in the logging or lumber industries, providing wood for human shelter, am I in the forefront of those who look for innovative ways to do my work without silting streams, compacting the soil unnecessarily, and honouring traditional ways of life? Do I urge governments and industries and local people to help me come up with ways to guard, protect, and keep the resource while doing my important work?
Can mountains, hills, prairies, farmer’s fields, suburban lots, city developments, forests, streams, rivers, oceans, even air . . . can all these things lift up their hands in praise to God as we read about in Psalm 148? Can they also say, “and praise you, God, for providing your image-bearers to be our keepers”?
And do I live my life gently, nurturing all – people, living things, the inanimate world – as I would treat my child, and as our God treats us?
Let us all resolve to treat the creation with the same attitude as our heavenly Father treats us.
Let’s resolve – regardless of our political views – to be earth-keepers by responding in a personal and communal way to our God and Saviour.
Curt Gesch is a retired school-teacher and farmer living in Quick, BC. This column originally formed part of a sermon he gave recently at the Christian Reformed Church in Terrace, BC.