This past Saturday I took a nine mile walk around the west side of Madison, Wisconsin, to do my errands. The fresh air along with the daffodils and tulips pushing their way up through the damp earth brought restoration to my soul. But scattered amidst the new life sprouting up was trash; litter tossed carelessly from car windows or other people strolling down the sidewalk. It saddened me. It also urged me to reflect about how God has asked us to care for the beauty surrounding us.
Although controversy still thrives among Christians about the causes for the current changes in the environment, many unite around the need to act as stewards toward the earth. To college students in particular, creation care, along with impassioned responses to many other global crises, has become a cause of special importance. Christian and secular schools alike have established organizations emphasizing an ecology based on the standards that God has set for creation care.
In the movie Spiderman, Uncle Ben says to his nephew, Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Some people think that when God tells us in the book of Genesis to “subdue” the earth, it means that we have freedom to do whatever we would like with natural resources because we’re in charge. But God gave us the great responsibility of care for what he created – we have the ability to think and decide and act as stewards of his creation.
In Psalm 24, David praises God saying, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” When my Auntie goes out of town she often asks me to come over and take care of her very old, but very lovable, Chocolate Lab, Otis Brown. If I were to spend the weekend at her house, leaving dirty dishes on the counter, tracking mud all over the floors, and neglecting to care for her dog, she would never trust me with more. In the same way, when God tells us that we have authority over creation, he is not saying we have the right to do with it what we please. We do not own the earth, God does. He wants us to treat his creation with respect.
But God also desires to share what he’s made with us, in much the same way that my Aunt encourages me to eat anything I find, and enjoy her movies, and sleep in her extra comfy bed. “’I give you every seed-bearing plant…They will be yours for food,” God says.
Trash lining the sidewalk is a far cry from some of the environmental catastrophe’s that have occurred in recent history, but it still creates a blemish on the face of the earth. The earth is the Lord’s; we should treat it as such. But we needn’t stand back sheepishly, afraid of ruining God’s masterpiece. We should bask in the glory of God’s creation, thanking him for all the beauty that surrounds us, and in thanking him, do our best to be good stewards of the earth.
For more on Creation Care, check out Our Father’s World, a new book from InterVarsity Press.