I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve never done a study of Scripture with the purpose of highlighting Biblical insights on the environment. It has come up in a peripheral way over the years, like when I’ve pondered the way creation declares the glory of God (Psalm 19), but the planet itself hasn’t been a central concern of mine.
I’m happy to say that lack of awareness is behind me. I have identified six specific precepts the Bible makes about the environment and our responsibility to it. Let’s examine these six claims, match them up with the current views they most echo or challenge, and nail down the Biblical implications from them.
Precept 1: The earth belongs to God.
God owns the earth as an artist owns his art. The world is His property—He created it. This is foundational to everything the Bible says about the world and our role in it. Psalm 24:1–2 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for he founded it on the seas, and established it on the waters.”
We find the same thought in Psalm 89:11: “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.” And not just the physical world, but its inhabitants belong to God: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine” (Exod. 19:5). In other words, we’re all God’s possession but He chose a people (Israel) to be His “treasured possession.” Whatever we do to the earth and with the earth, we must be aware that we are handling what belongs to God.
The implication of God’s ownership creates a duty for us to honor His creation. The very first thing we read in the Bible is, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Scripture goes on to describe the creation process. While He was creating the world, God repeatedly declared, “It is good. It is good!” Later, when He made the pinnacle of creation, which is you and me, He said, “It’s very good.”
So how do you honor God? He’s the greatest artist and the greatest architect—infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, and all-knowing. One of the great ways we can honor Him is by respecting what He has made. We study what He has made. And we give Him honor, credit, and praise for the beauty and the provision in all He has made for us.
The earth is valuable, precious, irreplaceable, and—here’s a word we don’t use often enough referring to the earth—sacred. It’s not just a piece of land. It’s not just air to breathe. God made it. It’s sacred.
A trite illustration brought this truth into focus for me. Early in our marriage I was working part-time for a wealthy gentleman. Theresa and I were “seminary poor” at that time, but we had planned a little getaway weekend.
My boss knew what we were doing, and the day I was going to leave, he pulled me aside and said, “Hey, Chip! I have a little gift to help you really enjoy your time.” He held out and dropped into my hands the keys to his brand new Datsun 280Z, probably the hottest sports car going at the time. I glanced over at the parking lot where that silver streak of stylish machine was parked.
My first thought was, If I wreck that car I’ll die. It’s my boss’s pride and joy. Then I thought, I probably should test drive it, just to make sure it’s going to be okay for me and my wife on this trip. It was like being in the cockpit of a jet airplane. I jammed the accelerator a few times. That’s when I said, “This is way too much fun!”
But I have to admit I was a little nervous during the trip. When we got to the hotel, all I could think about was parking the car where it wouldn’t get “dinged” by someone else’s door. And talk about defensive driving!
Here’s my point: My boss entrusted me with something precious for our pleasure, but I felt a tremendous weight of responsibility to not only enjoy it but to not mess it up. How much more should we consider the planet God has entrusted to you and me?
Chip Ingram, Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: Culture Shock, by Chip Ingram
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Culture Shock, Lesson #1
Whatever Happened to Right and Wrong
How Did We Get into This Mess?
Culture Shock, Lesson #2
Culture Shock, Lesson #3
Culture Shock, Lesson #4
Culture Shock, Lesson #5
Culture Shock, Lesson #6
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