‘God’s world – ours to use and abuse as we see fit’ or God’s world – with humans as custodians of his creation’?
What is our responsibility towards our planet? Can we just use it up and rely on God to provide us with another one when this one is no longer usable?
Rev Hilary Howarth posed these though provoking questions on Sunday 5th February 2017, and challenged us to think of our planet as something that we have been gifted by God and that we have been put here to look after God’s planet for all his creatures and plants.
Inspired by Hilary’s though-provoking sermon I looked up what the Bible says about looking after the planet. I didn’t expect to find much, after all climate change and recycling weren’t high priorities 2000 years ago. However, I found the following thoughts and quotes online at: http://www.eauk.org/church/resources/theological-articles/why-should-christians-care-for-the-planet.cfm. Here is the bit that stood out for me.
The Bible gives three main reasons why we should care for the environment. First, God Himself says that His creation is very good. The material world matters to God; He sustains it all the time. Without Him it would fall apart into chaos. "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1.16–17). So if we neglect, abuse and spoil the environment, we are damaging something that is precious to God.
The second and even more important reason why we should care for the environment is that in Genesis 1.28 and 2.15, God specifically commanded humankind to do so. He told us to take care of both the living and the non-living creation. We are to work at ruling and ordering creation as good stewards without abusing it for our own selfish ends. By caring for the earth properly, we enable it to be fruitful and to play its intended role in giving glory to God. That is part of our proper worship of God.
The third reason is that one day the cosmos will be renewed and re-created as the "new heavens and new earth", to which both the Old and New Testaments look forward (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21). That will bring the fullness of life that God intended and purposed for His creation: a place where people will truly be at home, where God will dwell with His people, and both they and the whole of creation will worship Him and give Him glory.
So how we treat the environment now ought to be a preview – a practice run if you like – of what we will do in the new creation. The certain hope of a renewed future creation is not a license to abandon care for this one. Rather, the opposite is the case: there is every incentive to foster and to use the innate goodness and fruitfulness of this material world to do what is pleasing to God in our time and place. As Martin Luther is supposed to have remarked, "If I knew Jesus would return tomorrow, I would plant a tree today."
Kindly written by Jamie Blatchley.