Should Christians care about the environment?
God has given us the whole earth to look after - how do you think we're going?
The short answer: absolutely yes! However, many Christians who love nature and are aware of their responsibility to protect it feel like they must add, “But I’m not a tree hugger!”.
Christians should not apologize for their desire to be responsible stewards of God’s creation. God gave Adam the responsibility of exercising authority over nature, to work it and preserve it. The word “rule” used in Genesis 1:26-28 implies responsibility and preservation. In the Old Testament, Israel had God-given laws that ensured that the land would be given periods of rest and that animals would be treated with respect (Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 22:4-7). It is never God’s will for us to neglect or destroy the environment.
Another point sometimes missed by Christians is that nature is a revelation of God. The heavens declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1). What person has not at some point been awestruck at the beauty of a natural landscape, a sunset or a star-filled sky? God is an artist and he has expressed himself through natural wonders. Taking the time to look at God’s artistic achievements can inspire us to worship him and appreciate him on a deeper level.
It's possible to love the environment too much
Of course, there are some extremes out there, like nature worship or the idea that humans are no more important than plants or animals. Only humans are made in the image of God. Although God made all animals and they all reflect something good about their creator, animals were not made in his image. Neither were plants.
Some people would fight harder to protect the egg of an endangered bird than they would the life of an unborn child. They might argue that some animals are endangered and that humans are not but, in reality, both should be protected. Humans should not destroy endangered animals or their natural habitat. These are creatures that God put on earth for a reason. To force a species into extinction can mess up the balance of nature in unpredictable, harmful ways. All of nature is interdependent. We need a healthy planet.
God's big canvas
Think of nature as a canvas upon which God has painted the human race. Without the canvas, the paint has nothing on which to adhere. God placed us on earth for a reason. He gave us physical bodies that eat, drink and breathe nature. If we destroy our planet, we will, in a sense, be killing ourselves.
Perhaps the most profound reason we should be good stewards of the planet is found in the mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Our neighbors include all people, even future generations. If we deplete or destroy our natural resources, what does that leave for our future neighbors? If I bury toxic waste in my yard and then sell my house, what happens to the family that moves in and plants a garden in the contaminated soil? If I pour poisonous chemicals that reach a stream, how does that affect the fish and the people who eat them? Let us love God, ourselves and our neighbors by taking care of nature.
This article was written by Ryan Snuffer, and first appeared in the Apologetics Study Bible For Students, edited by Sean McDowell (Broadman Holman, 2010). It is used with permission.