A World to Work and Watch

Last year, my husband and I were sent on a trip to the Holy Land. It felt surreal to walk along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, knowing that Jesus might have walked in the same spot a few thousand years ago. I found myself envisioning Jesus everywhere we went, trying to figure out what it would have been like to be there with Him or to know what He was thinking when He visited those places. The landscapes of Israel are absolutely breathtaking. Did Jesus also find the Sea of Galilee beautiful? Or did He view it in a utilitarian way, to be used for survival, ministry, and miracles?   

Although contemplations about our natural world are not necessarily the main point of a trip to a place like Israel, knowing and understanding God’s purposes definitely is. As someone who loves spending time outdoors appreciating God’s creation, I wanted to know, “How does God feel about His created world, and what are our responsibilities concerning it?” In order to figure out the answer to these questions, I turned to the Bible—God’s special revelation to us.

God Cares for His Creation

As we read through Genesis chapter one, we see God create part of our natural world, stop and marvel at it, and then call it “good.” He repeated this pattern each time He created a different section of creation. Scripture could have succinctly described creation in one sentence, such as, “God made all the natural world and the creatures within it.” However, this is not the case. It’s repeatedly pointed out to us that our all-powerful God paused and appreciated each part of creation as He made it. We can deduce that God has found value and beauty in His creation from the beginning.

God intended for us to have stewardship over His creation from the beginning. After God created the earth and its creatures, and before He finally created Adam and Eve, God declared that He would make a people created in His image who would have authority over His “good” creation (v.26). God then assigned this authority to Adam immediately after He created him (v.28). Adam is told by God to work the land and watch over it (Gen 2:15). Adam is then commanded to give names to each species of animal. This process of naming not only showed Adam’s authority over the animals, but also his responsibility to them. Great authority is always accompanied by great responsibility. Unfortunately, Adam did not prove to be a good overseer. He chose to sin in the Garden of Eden, and, as a result, all of creation fell under the curse of sin. Even in the midst of sin and death, God’s concern for His creation did not end.

God’s concern for His creation continued throughout the lifetime of Noah. In the plans presented to Noah for the ark, God made provision not only for Noah’s family but also for the animals of the earth (Genesis 6:19-22). God then proceeded to direct the animals onto the ark for their protection during the flood (Genesis 7:6-10). Afterward, God made a covenant with Noah, and all of the living creatures on the earth, that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-11). The inclusion of the earth and living creatures in the covenant reveals to us that God is concerned for the well-being of His creation.

Psalm 104 is full of beautiful imagery communicating how God continues to provide for His creation. He causes springs to gush through valleys to give water to wild beasts (vv. 10-11). He also is the One who causes grass to grow for livestock (v. 14). This passage gives credit to God for the flourishing of trees and for the proper habitats provided for the creatures (vv.16-18). This Psalm concludes with the acknowledgment that all the animals wait for God to provide them with food and satisfaction (vv.27-28). The Psalmist is convinced that God is actively concerned with His creation and is therefore continually caring for it.

Even at the end of this age, God will not abandon His creation. God has included creation in His redemption plan. Romans 8:20-22 explains that creation will be set free from its bondage to decay. Isaiah 11:6-9 promises that the hostility and predation between animals will cease. “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat” (v.6). This passage explains that the reason the animals will no longer experience animosity amongst one another is because “the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water” (v.9). God certainly loves humanity most, as His redemption plan for us far supersedes that of the animals. However, He has not neglected to show concern and care for His creatures, even at the end of time.

The Earth is Valuable to Us

The earth not only has value to God as His beloved creation, it has extreme value to us as well.  We need the environment and the creatures within it for resources and food. It was designed this way from the beginning. However, because we now have farmers that can manage the land on our behalf and mass-produce food for us, many of us live lives separated from the natural world. We also live in an age of synthetic materials that have been “created” in labs. It is easy to forget that all the resources for these items ultimately come from the environment. Although we often live apart from creation, we must not forget that God has chosen for our physical well-being to be dependent upon the health of our earth.

We are also dependent upon creation for general revelation to humankind of the power and glory of God. Romans 1:20 tells us that “…His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made…” Similarly, Psalm 19:1-2 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the expanse proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech;
night after night they communicate knowledge.” God’s creation not only provides us food for our bodies, but it also helps to feed our souls as it reflects to us the power and glory of the One who made it.

We Ought to Care for God’s Creation 

It is clear that God cares for His creation; therefore, we ought to imitate Him in showing care for it as well. Many of the blueprints and designs for how God intends for us to live come from the first few chapters of Genesis. When we read the creation account in Genesis chapter 1, we tend to only get it half right. We rightly view creation as for us, but we miss the command for us to steward God’s creation wisely. It seems appropriate that we thoughtfully consider our responsibility over creation.

Since God created and cares for our natural world, His people should be marked by an appreciation for and care of that world. In spite of this fact, “Conservatives” are often marked instead by their lack of care toward conservation efforts both politically and in daily action. This ought not to be. Those of us who treasure God’s creation must be voices pioneering the wise stewardship of the incredible gift of creation.

When we faithfully steward God’s beloved creation, we show Him that we are thankful that He has chosen to care for us and reveal Himself to us through it.

Editor's Note: This originally published at Thinking & Theology.