A Christian Teen’s Guide to Caring for the Planet
Author Betsy Painter shares a special Earth Day reflection on creation, water, and looking after God's world.
Did you know that Christians have engaged and cared for the planet for centuries?
Right now there is a particular urgency with the alarming levels of pollution, an erratic climate, and biodiversity on decline. But it’s important to sustain hope not out of ignorance but out of confidence that all creation is part of God’s redemptive purpose.
This is God’s world, and our Creator loves the creation. We can join in God’s redemptive work that extends to the full community of creation!
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it – Psalm 24:1 NIV
Things you may not know about water
One of the most pressing global environmental issues today is lack of access to clean water. Water is breathtaking and awe-inspiring, yet this precious resource is surprisingly scarce.
Approximately 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Why is water shortage a problem? Most of the water on the planet is salt water, meaning it’s undrinkable. The oceans and seas all contain salt water, leaving only 3 percent of the earth’s water fresh. However, most of this is inaccessible and frozen at the poles, which means only a meager 1 percent is reasonably within reach.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. . . . He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. – Psalm 104:10, 13 niv
Failure to clean up our bodies of water and uphold solutions that protect our water systems can lead to rivers combusting, human illness and death, and food contamination. If we aren’t wise with our water consumption and conservation, especially in regions prone to drought, our water tables can shrink to concerning levels.
Water justice in the US involves addressing water issues and protecting clean water sources with the same care and urgency for every community, regardless of race or economic status. Prioritizing clean drinking water for everyone is a godly way to care for people.
What does the Bible say about fresh water?
When we see a community in need of fresh water, we have an opportunity to reflect God’s character. In the book of Matthew, Jesus said that when we offer a cup of water to someone in need, it’s as if we were giving the Messiah Himself a drink (10:42). Jesus is very serious about physical provision for His people, and we should be too. God invites you and me to participate in providing fresh water for one another, and when we do, we can be confident that we are becoming more like Christ.
What does the Bible say about how water connects us?
As we learn in Genesis 1:2, while creation was still empty and formless, God’s Spirit was “hovering over the face of the waters.” God had a plan for water to sustain all life on earth. Amazingly, every water molecule God created in the beginning is still a part of the water cycle today! Around the planet, water evaporates, condenses into clouds, then precipitates back to the earth as rain or snow. This natural circulation of water connects the seas and rivers with the forests, grasslands, wetlands, and deserts.
It also connects them to you and me. Water is the foundational force that binds each ecosystem to another. Without it, life would fail. When we pollute or contaminate our water, we interfere with the systems God set in place to give and support life.
What does the Bible say about how water sustains us?
Through Moses in the book of Exodus, God caused water to gush forth from a rock in the wilderness, without which His people would have surely died. God provided for Jacob to buy a portion of land and build a well to supply water to his community. In the Old Testament wells were foundational to the survival of a community, especially in a desert setting. These stories show how God knows and meets our needs, bodily as well as spiritually.
What does the Bible say about how water renews us?
Throughout the Bible, God uses water metaphorically to demonstrate spiritual renewal. Just as God designed our physical bodies to rely on water, our spirits cannot thrive without the transformative presence of God. Perhaps the most notable example of this in a Christian’s life is the sacrament of baptism, which signifies the cleansing and spiritual rebirth of our souls. Jesus also used water to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter learned he had to let Jesus wash his spirit in order to share in the life of holiness with God the Father.
In all these examples God chose water, with its cleansing abilities, to physically demonstrate spiritual change. If God chose to work through and with water, what does that say about this significant substance?
God offers us peace in the presence of water.
Psalm 23:2–3 says, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
When we take time to sit by a stream and pray, the peace of God settles over us and stills our anxieties to match the tranquil waters. We’re restored by enjoying creation and resting in God’s presence. The beauty of glistening, rhythmic waters in nature is a gift from our Creator. Someday we’ll enjoy life in a perfectly renewed place, but until then, as Christians, we have a responsibility to respect and protect earth. When we consider what a gift water is—a life-giving, cleansing, satisfying, restorative gift—we see how important it is for us to be good stewards of our water sources and supplies; to do our part in meeting the physical water needs of everyone; and to work for clean, accessible water, especially to marginalized populations.
How can you make a difference?
It’s easy to conserve water!
- Turn off your faucet while it’s not in use. Running water while brushing your teeth? Mindfully turn it off!
- Run the washing machine with a full load, and use the cold setting to save energy.
- Limit your time in the shower to three to eight minutes, or as brief as possible. Pick a couple of songs and challenge yourself to finish showering before they’re over (singing along is encouraged).
Get involved! Water issues are global, but it’s helpful to think locally.
- Organize a litter cleanup by foot, kayak, or canoe with your church or neighborhood. Bring trash bags and map out a route.
- If walking, prioritize trash thrown in street gutters, which ends up in our rivers and lakes. If boating, look for litter on the banks and floating in the water.
- Check online to see if any organized “Blueway Cleanups” are happening in your area.
Questions to think about
- God designed us to need water. Do you ever think about your dependence on water and the natural world? (It’s pretty incredible to think God created our bodies with water, to continually need water, and to access water through His creation.)
- The writer of Genesis mentioned the rivers flowing out of Eden by name—Tigris, Euphrates, Pishon, and Gihon. Do you know the names of the bodies of water in your area? Contact your local utility company to ask where your water is sourced from. Visit and pray by these vital freshwater ecosystems.
- What does the Bible say about other resources, like mountains, minerals, air, and soil?
- How can you inspire your friends and family to care for Earth the way God does? Why is this important?
Learn more about how to care for Earth the way God does in A Christian’s Guide to Planet Earth by Betsy Painter.
About the author
Betsy Painter is a creative writer and conservation biologist who is passionate about environmental care and its human dimensions. She is a graduate student at Yale studying the connection between environmental conservation and Christian ministry. She wrote A Christian's Guide to Planet Earth out of a fervent belief that her family in the faith has the reason, the hope, and the resources to make a difference and to seize the opportunity to reflect the gospel message of loving things to life.