15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Caring for creation is hard work, and our American culture mentality of “I do what’s best for me” completely opposes it. We are bombarded with messages and advertisements telling us to make life easier and more convenient, and our own selfishness tendencies tell us “no one else is doing it” and “my contribution really won’t make a difference.” We may know that we have been given dominion over creation, but often we do not pause to consider what this means.
- Genesis 1:1-2:15
In this passage, we see God create. We see Him create intentionally and orderly. He creates for the first three days (day/night; sky/water; water/land), and fills what He created for the next 3 days (sun/stars/moon; sea creatures/birds; animals/mankind). With each step, we see the Lord create each “according to their kinds.” And with each step, the Lord sees what He made and declares that it is good.
God’s View of His Creation
Let us draw a few conclusions about God’s view of His creation.
- God Appointed Humans as Stewards of His Planet. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God placed man in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” He makes man’s position in relation to the rest of creation clear in Genesis 1:28 as He tells man to “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.” Man is given a special role of authority and power over all creation. It is important to note that the “dominion” that God gives man is not a selfish mentality but an authoritative-yet-responsible mentality. He has given us great honor in this position.1 God has entrusted us as stewards with His creation, as we work, care for and rule over it. Let us resist the urge to merely think about creation as something to serve our individual needs.
- Everything God Made is Good. After creating the light, sky, earth, plants, sun, moon and stars, birds and fish, terrestrial animals, and finally man and woman, God looks at what He created and declared, it is good.” He made each and every insect, variety of grass, ape, bird, etc. with great intentionality, and He values what He has made. God affirms His creation.
- God Loves the World He Created. He loves the whole world. We often read John 3:16 as “God loves the people in the world,” but this is not what it says. While mankind is special amongst all creation, it is clear that God loves all of His creation and all of it will one day be re-created. 2
- What God Made Belongs to Him, Not Us. From the creation account to Psalms to Jesus’ parables, we see very clearly that everything is the Lord’s. This should give us great humility regarding our surroundings.3
- God Told the Land and Animals to be Fruitful and Multiply, Not Just Humans. Therefore, we should be concerned with their ability to do that (i.e. not decreasing their habitats/food supplies when unnecessary or for wasteful purposes).
- Everything Was Created to Glorify God. The Scriptures are clear that all of creation exists to bring glory to God. Everything is expected to acknowledge and appreciate God’s power, majesty, holiness, wisdom and love.4
- God Reveals Himself Through His Creation. God uses creation to display His own marvelous qualities and nature. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”5 He uses His creation to draw people out of darkness to Himself as people see His beauty displayed on earth.
Before we get practical on how to live this out, let us first deal with some common misconceptions regarding creation.
- The Earth is Going to Burn Up. This is poor (though popular) theology. God is not going to destroy the earth, but re-create it. Rather than annihilating all creation, God will transform creation into its originally intended unmarred state.6 Even though God will redeem what sin has marred, to absolve ourselves of responsibility completely disregards the principles of stewardship that God has given us.
- God Gave us the Earth to Use, So We Shouldn’t Worry. God did give us the earth to support the needs of all living things, and He has allowed us to use its resources for that end. However, He is the owner and He gave it to all of us. We receive creation from our predecessors and pass on the responsibility to steward it for generations to come.
- People Are Vastly More Important Than Nature. It is true that God has created man to be most prominent in His creation, as He specifically made man in His image. Though God has given man great responsibility and honor, He has made and called all things “good.” Therefore, people and nature should not be made enemies. God does not ask us to choose one to care for. Both are made by His hands and are loved by Him. He expects man to live in such a way that both people and the rest of creation are nurtured. On a practical note, to suggest that nature can be disregarded or treated as second rate is ignorant. We are just as dependent on creation as are all the other living creatures we share the earth with. The more marred the earth is, the more humankind suffers.
- My Efforts Won’t Make a Difference. While it is discouraging that only a few people attempt to care for God’s creation, God never allows us to disobey simply because others are. We must acknowledge and respond to our mandate to steward God’s creation.
Do We Have an Impact on Creation?
While some things are up for debate, many are not. We can clearly see with our own eyes many of the negative effects that human activities have on creation, like factories with hazardous smoke stacks and corporations that dump chemical waste into rivers. And although there is disagreement among scientists about climate change and humankind’s impact on it, the majority clearly sees a strong correlation.7 There is great consensus that many negative effects have been had on our air, our atmosphere, our oceans, our freshwater and our land.
We must admit that keeping the environment clean and unpolluted, caring for all species, leaving the earth as undamaged as possible for the next generation models reverence for our Creator, love for our fellow human beings (even those yet to be born), and the selflessness of Christ to a self-consumed world.
Analyzing Our Society: Consumerist and Wasteful
To properly see ourselves in relation to the earth, we need to step back and look at our culture from the outside. We live in a consumerist and rushed society; one that is overtly indulgent and self-focused. We are told to “get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.” In the United States alone, we represent only 5% of the world’s population, and yet we consume 30% of the world’s resources and produce 30% of the world’s trash. Our houses have grown larger (the average house doubled in size since the 1970s) as our families have shrunk in size. The more space we have, the greater tendency we have to buy more stuff to fill it – stuff that accumulates, needs to be managed, cleaned, organized, and then disposed of when we no longer find pleasure in it. We consume twice as much as we did 50 years ago.
Practical Next Steps
As we grow conviction about our role as stewards of God’s creation, our view of how we interact with our surroundings should change. Our minds and hearts should increasingly see life through His lens, which should begin to shape our daily choices. Below are three suggested starting points.
- Buy Less. Recycling is good, but good stewardship begins by with careful purchasing. Analyze before you buy. Think about your purchases for at least a week before buying to make sure they are wise purchases.
- Choose Reusable Options. Consider using cloth diapers, cloth napkins or old kitchen towels.
- Buy in Bulk and Reduce Packaging. Bulk purchases save both money and packaging. It also saves trips to the store. You can split bulk items with a friend, freeze items, put into airtight storage containers, etc. Try to eliminate individual size containers (i.e. yogurt, soda, juice boxes, etc.). Nearly a 1/3 of our household garbage comes from packaging.
- Recycle and Repurpose. Find new purposes for things you no longer need (i.e. old clothes as rags, jars as food storage containers, etc.).
- When You Buy, Buy Quality. As much as possible, try to buy things that will last a long time. This not only saves you time, but saves unnecessary disposal of cheap materials.
- Buy Used Instead of New. When you can, make the most of used products. Think soberly about what really needs to be “new.”
- Reduce Junk Mail. Do not receive catalogs that you do not need and get your name removed from junk mail. 9
- Compost. Make your soil richer while reducing the amount of waste that needs to be hauled away from your home.
- Give Away Your Money. A great solution to overconsumption is being generous.
Eliminate Toxic Material Usage
- Use Healthy Cleaning Supplies and Avoid Toxic Materials. Use healthy cleaning supplies and avoid toxic materials. Most toxins in our homes are ones we brought in via our cleaning supplies. Not only do they pose health risks for some people, but they leave our houses moving down the waste stream, ending up somewhere else in creation. Use nontoxic supplies, i.e. baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, borax, etc.
- When Possible, Buy Organic. We often think that organic is just about not consuming chemicals and pesticides for ourselves and our families through the foods we eat. It is that but so much more. By purchasing foods from “organic” farmers, we build up the businesses of farmers who don’t spray their fields with artificial fertilizers and pesticides, which run into the soil and then as it rains get washed into our waterways.
Use Less Fossil Fuel and Use More Renewable Energy Sources
- Eat Real, Local Food. In the U.S., fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1500 miles. By purchasing real local food, we eat healthier (more nutrients, less artificial preservatives and ripening chemicals used), we prevent environmental damage (by requiring far less transportation), and encourage local economy by helping sustain local farmers. Buy from local farmers at the farmers market, join a CSA (community supported agriculture), or even better grow your own. Eating real food (not processed), improves health and decreases packaging and energy usage needed to convert crops into “food products.”
- Conserve Energy. Know how much energy your family consumes. Set goals to reduce your consumption each year. Be specific on how you can accomplish this (i.e. shorter showers, heat turned down, add storm windows, etc.).
- Use Less Fossil Fuel. Live close to work. Consolidate your trips. Drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Bike or walk when possible. Consider the impact of your carbon footprint (e.g. use carboncounter.org).
- Do Building Remodels and New Builds Right. Research the latest energy efficient materials and techniques and incorporate as many as possible into your plans when re-modeling or building from scratch.
God has given us clear mandates to care for and steward His incredible creation. We must take this to heart, and we must recognize that this surfaces a huge battle in our hearts. Are we willing to give up what we want for the sake of others, creation, and our Creator? John Stott said, “We must learn to think and act ecologically. We repent of extravagance, pollution and wanton destruction. We recognize that human beings find it easier to subdue the earth than they do to subdue themselves.”
- What is your view of God’s creation?
- Have you found yourself buying into any of the stated lies?
- What is your biggest inhibitor in stewarding creation?
- What aspects of creation do you care well for now?
- How can you begin to make changes? Write out a specific plan.
How does this study reinforce your belief in the gospel?
- Psalm 8:3-9
- Romans 8:18-25
- Exodus 9:28-30; Psalm 50:10-11; Psalm 24:1-3
- Psalm 103:20-22; Psalm 145:21; Isaiah 55:12-13; Psalm 96:11-13
- Romans 1:20
- Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:21; Romans 8
- In January 2006, 86 evangelical Christian leaders issued a statement entitled “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action” that was based on the claims: 1) human-induced climate change is real; 2) the consequences of climate change will be significant, and will hit the poor the hardest; 3) Christian moral convictions demand our response to the climate change problem; and 4) the need to act now is urgent.
- Take advantage of garage sales, craigslist.org, freecycle.com, etc.
- Use resources like dmachoice.org/consumerassistance.php, greendimes.com, and 41pounds.org
- 2 Corinthians 8:7 4