While editing the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, I needed some material about the environment. What did the Bible say about caring for the environment, creation care, and the like? I went online to find Christian websites about the topic. I was especially interested in what biblical texts they used.
I looked and found 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.” I focused on the two Hebrew words translated “work” and “care.” What does this mean? If we as a people care about the well-being of others, we have to care about the environment and the potential health hazards that come from the abuse of the environment.
All one has to do is look at the photos of places where, for decades, various big businesses, or big governments, or big businesses in cahoots with big governments, ruined the environment—the air, the water, the ground, everything. And even worse, people suffered devastating health issues, all because of the exploitation of the natural world and the resources that were greedily extracted from it. It’s hard to imagine how any Christian couldn’t be concerned.
At the same time we need to strike a balance, which isn’t always easy for humans to do. Some people get obsessed with the issue, even to the point of absurdity. Years ago, for example, an environmentalist pulled his car up to a seafood restaurant, ran in, snatched a lobster out of the tank, threw it into a tank in his car, and drove off, eventually returning the startled crustacean to its home in the water. Or after a truck carrying lobsters overturned and many of them died in the street, some environmentalists wanted to build a memorial to the dead animals.
Less silly is when concern for the environment and nature can get dangerous, with ecoterrorists destroying property and using violence in an attempt to achieve their ends.
Yes, we need to take care of the earth and the created world. But we shouldn’t make an idol, or a god, out of creation. We shouldn’t, as some do, all but worship nature. Though the context was different, the principle is similar to when Paul warned about those who “worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (Rom. 1:25).
May we take heed.
Clifford Goldstein’s latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.