Should Christians care for the planet?
Saving the environment won't save anyone.
Headlines cry out that climate change will be the end of the world. Newspapers document disaster after disaster. The death of the great barrier reef. Water and food shortages. Droughts and heat waves. Islands being submerged.
Amongst this, there are calls to do your bit. Recycle and turn off lights and make sacrifices now, thinking of the future. Because otherwise, there may not be a future.
As a disclaimer, I’ve been well and truly convinced by these warnings. Last year, I started making my own deodorant, stopped using shampoo, and committed to riding my bike everywhere.
I looked to find justification for these actions in the Bible, but what I found was something even more significant.
What does the Bible say?
In the Bible, God doesn’t just predict the end of the world, he promises that the world will definitely be destroyed.
Isaiah expresses it very well when he says, “The Earth is polluted by its inhabitants.” (Isaiah 24:5)
I know that’s true for me. Plastic bags, half-eaten takeaway thrown in the bin, bottles left abandoned at the beach.
But Isaiah wasn’t actually talking about the environment when he wrote that. He was talking about our relationship with God.
The rest of the verse says, “The earth is polluted by its inhabitants, for they have transgressed teachings, overstepped decrees and broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5). If you read the rest of the chapter, it’s a prediction of the destruction of the earth as judgement for these wrongs, followed by the hint of a promise of a future king.
The symptom of a much bigger problem
Pollution and the brokenness of our environment are symptoms of a much larger illness: our ruined relationship with God. It is by ignoring his teaching and breaking his promises that we have polluted the world.
I wonder if you’ve ever thought of sin that way, like oil, floating on top of otherwise pristine waters. Or like the plastic rings which have been known to strangle penguins. The rebellious and sinful things we do are far worse for the earth than any pollution, toxic waste or oil spill. My sin is worse than that, more disgusting than that.
The beautiful picture of a perfect world and perfect relationship with God we are introduced to in the first pages of the Bible (See Genesis 1 for more!) is so far from our world, where polar bears are losing their ice caps, sharks are overfished, and pandas are on the brink of extinction.
And no matter how passionate we are about protecting and loving the environment, we can never fix that initial relationship breach with God.
For that, we need God’s King, Jesus. When Jesus promises he has come so that we may have life to the full (John 10:10), he isn’t talking about solving our environmental issues. He’s promising to fix our relationship with God, cleansing the world from its worst pollutant—sin.
So as Christians, before we start making our own deodorant and investing in keep cups—which are all great things to do—particularly when you consider Jesus’ command to love your neighbour, we need to think about what our relationship with God looks like.
Because no matter how we look after the world around us, one day it will be destroyed by God’s righteous judgement.
Is recycling pointless?
2 Peter 3:11-13 says it this way,
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
While we are waiting for the new heaven and earth, and to be back in perfect relationship with God, it’s great to recycle and protect the environment. So what can we do now? We need to keep growing in godliness and holiness.