If we read the news, we might get the sense that Christianity has little to say about protecting the environment. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The Jewish and Christian origin story, found in Genesis 1, tells us that God makes the world and then tasks humans to look after it. So in other words, caring for creation is biblical.
The problem is that often Christians read language like ‘have dominion over’ as a license to exploit the world in any way we see fit. We extract wealth and resources without any thought for the world’s long-term health. This attitude comes from a misreading of several biblical texts. A text in 2 Peter tells us the world is going to burn. Except, it’s really about how God will purify the earth. And a text in 2 Thessalonians tells us that we’re going to go away to heaven to be with Jesus. Only it’s really about how we will accompany Jesus as he takes up his throne as king of the world. These misunderstandings lead us to treat the world as if it is disposable.
What’s more, is that we don’t know when Jesus will return. And while we might hope it’s soon, we must prepare for the long haul. Spoiling this world for those who come after us is an act of selfishness, incompatible with Christian love.
So how ought we to live? First, we can avoid behaviours that are obviously harmful. Don’t buy a gas-guzzling car if you don’t need to. Don’t use disposable plastic when you have the choice. But more important is the idea of simple living. We don’t need to consume things just because we have the money to do so. Rather, our consumption should correspond to our needs. Christians should take our responsibility to steward the environment seriously, after all, caring for creation is biblical.
Questions for Reflection
- Which model for relating to creation was I taught, mastery or stewardship?
- What are ways we can reduce the damage we cause to creation?
- What does living simply mean to you?