Can Christians be Concerned About the Environment and Climate Change?

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image from worldmag.com

Christians are often characterized as being unconcerned about the environment, climate change, and global warming. To be fair, I suppose it does appear that way sometimes. However, in truth, it is okay for Christians to concern themselves with matters of the environment. We must remember, that when God placed mankind in the Garden of Eden He gave him one responsibility, to tend to the Garden:

“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, NIV).

Not only was mankind created to take care of the environment, God also gave us a certain amount of dominion over the environment:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule (have dominion) over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26, NIV).

The world and everything in it belongs to the Creator. Genesis 1 teaches us that He created it all to bless us and then gave us dominion over it. He, in effect, loaned it to us. When you loan something to someone, there is a certain expectation implied with that loan; you want them to take care of your possession – the more valuable the item, the more care you expect to be taken with it. For instance, if you loan someone your car for the weekend you are, in effect, giving them dominion over your car for a couple of days, and when you get it back you expect it to be in the same condition as when you loaned it. It’s even better if they bring it back washed and with a full tank of gas!

Christians, we are expected to take care of God’s world. His creation is precious. When our scientists tell us we are damaging it we need to listen and take steps to do better, if such steps exist. I fear that environmentalism has somehow become associated with the political left and those on the right, including the vast majority of the Church, rail against it because they think they are supposed to.

Environmentalism, however, is not a political issue, it is a Biblical one. God gave us dominion over creation and expects us to take care of His world.

There is one word of caution, however, and it is a word the secular left is sure to disagree with. Christians cannot allow the environment to become their idol. We should care for the world in obedience to and respect for the God who created it. We cannot, however, become so obsessed with the environment that we elevate it to our primary focus in life. Christians should be motivated by respect and obedience when it comes to tending the garden, not fear. Why? Because God’s Word contains an outstanding promise:

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea” (Revelation 21:1, NIV).

The Apostle John’s vision recorded in Revelation saw our earth passing away … ceasing to exist … and new heavens and a new earth taking its place. Climate change, global warming, pollution – these are all issues that (sometimes unknowingly) attest to one Biblical fact – the world is tainted by sin. When Adam sinned, sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). Now, thousands of years removed from that original sin, we live in a world tainted with environmental issues. Because of sin, tending the garden has become far more complicated, just as God told Adam it would:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19, NASB). 

Because of God’s grace, we will someday receive new heavens and a new earth – a new Garden. Those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus can rest assured in that promise. But until that day, God’s directions to tend to the earth and have dominion over the environment still stand. We should care about the environment, but we can’t let the fear of this earth expiring (and someday it will) rule us. Our actions must be governed and motivated by respect and obedience to the Father and hope in His promise of a new earth.