Jesus is coming back anyway, why should I care about the state of the earth now?
That’s a line you might hear if you talk to a Christian who doesn’t really care about being eco-friendly.
As believers, some of us tend to hide ourselves behind great things of the faith like the Second Coming and the Great Commission, and suddenly things like conservation or taking care of the environment lose their importance on an eternal scale.
We have developed a kind of myopia from our eternal focus. Many of us are quick to look past our temporary home and think to the New Earth (Revelation 21) that we will someday live upon.
Personally, I believe that which is temporal is not as urgent as the matter of souls. But I also believe that while it’s correct to have our focus on eternal things, it doesn’t absolve us of caring for the earth here and now.
Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about our responsibilities to steward the earth.
DOMINION AND STEWARDSHIP
You may have heard Spider-Man say it, but the principle first came from here: Authority comes with responsibility.
In Genesis 1:28, we not only understand the infinite privilege of being created in God’s image and to resemble Him; we learn about the authority we have. We are His vice-regents to rule the earth, ruling in His image.
What does mankind have this authority for?
- Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
- Subdue the earth.
- Have dominion over the fish of the sea, birds of the heavens and every living thing that moves on the earth.
Let’s see what each of these 3 responsibilities really mean.
“Be fruitful and multiply” is a phrase we hear a lot. We hear it in church when older folks probe about one’s plans for children, and we hear it throughout the book of Genesis.
- Genesis 9:1, 7 – Noah
- Genesis 17:20 – Ishmael
- Genesis 28:3 – Jacob
It’s clear that God’s creation plan is for the earth to be filled with people who follow Him faithfully and produce fruit in the world.
“Subdue” sounds bad when taken alone, as if God gave us free rein to rape, plunder and pillage the earth for our purposes.
But He did not. The subjugation of the earth was to be performed in the context of mankind’s caring stewardship authorised by God, allowing us to utilise the environment for life and survival.
There are things in the natural world that must be subdued, like plants that must be pruned for them to be fruitful, and soil that must be tilled for crops to grow.
That’s a fruitful kind of subjugation. We were called to subdue nature for our own blessing and God’s pleasure and glory.
“Dominion” is likewise not to be taken as a command to exploit the earth’s natural resources for our own gain. That is an exploitative spirit towards God’s creation, a result of man’s fallenness introduced in Genesis 3.
What’s dominion for then?
Simply put, dominion is God’s authority vested in His image-bearers: We are His royal representatives who should reflect the character of God, our king.
And as I wrote earlier, authority always comes with responsibility. This responsibility is the divine mandate to rule the earth with authority as God’s vice-regents, populate it, and bring fruitfulness out of the world with tender concern and care.
We see this mandate in practice when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)
“Tend (Hebrew ‘abad) means “to work or serve” and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as “to till or cultivate.” It possesses the nuance seen in the KJV’s choice in its translation: “dress,” implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement. Keep (Hebrew shamar) means “to exercise great care over”.
In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God’s wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, “take care of,” “guard,” or “watch over” the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it.”
This is the stewardship ideal: Man is not a brutish gardener, but a caring guardian. When it comes to care for the world that God has given us, we must take our cue from the Creator.
“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16)
That is our loving Lord and caring Creator. We should exercise that same love and tender care just as He did.
GIVING AN ACCOUNT
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Revelation 22:12)
So, yes, Jesus Christ is coming back. But what will He come back to? It’s a good question to keep in mind. Because Christ isn’t just coming back to the world. He’s coming back to you, and we will have to account for how we stewarded what He entrusted us with.
Read the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). To the two servants who took what they had and did something meaningful with it, the master rewarded them. And for the servant who buried his talent, the master cast him out into the “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Just what have we done with the world we were placed in? In truth, it doesn’t make sense to take Jesus’ second coming as a free pass to not care. If anything, it’s the biggest reason to care!
The already-ailing state of the environment is no reason to throw our hands up in the air and give up.
We are living in the consequences of our forefather’s decisions, but we get to decide how our generation and the ones that come after us will live.
Even now, young people are stepping up to make a difference for their future. Below you’ll see a video of a young person named Zyn. Though only 17, she’s working to reduce plastic consumption in Singapore by encouraging more places to go strawless.
Man, what was I doing at 17? Or 27 (right now). What will I do at 37, and what will the world look like when I’m 57? All generations, young and old, must rise up as stewards of this world.
Don’t worry that your effort will be too small or that it will just be a drop in the ocean. Faithful in little, faithful in much. The Creator God who made this world can heal it. And someday He will redeem it entirely – and we will have a new one.