… work it and care for it (Gen 2: 15)

By Not Known

The balance between humanity and the physical earth is a pressing issue. Thus we
hear warnings about irreversible environmental damage and witness the emergence
of the Greens as a significant force. The Bible speaks with balance and practicality on
this issue.

On the one hand, humanity and the physical earth are united. We are created and
have a physical nature. We share some common physiology with other creatures. We
are made of the dust of the earth, rather than stardust (Gen 2:7). We are a ‘living
creature’, along with much else (Gen 1:20-21 ,24,30).

On the other hand, we are distinct. We alone bear God’s image (Gen 1:16,27). We
are given rule over the rest of creation (Gen 1 :26 & 28). We are explicitly given both
plants and living creatures as food for our table (Gen 1 :29 & 9:3).

This unity and distinctiveness comes together in the balanced ‘environmental
charter’ of Gen 2:15. Humanity is told to … work it and take ‘care’ of it. The word
work‘ is associated with activities such as agriculture. The word ‘care ‘ is associated
with keeping, guarding, protecting and safekeeping.

Humanity has done much ‘work‘ on the earth since the industrial revolution
arguably, this now needs balance by increased emphasis on care. Most of us
appreciate the fruits of humanity’s ‘work‘ in our comfortable living. However, our
sense of our responsibility to God, of our place in the world and of our responsibility
to our children and grandchildren need to be listened to.

People who merge divinity into the physical world (pantheists) have largely set the
ideological drive of the Greens. In short, some want a ‘hands off‘ policy because they
believe that nature is divine. Christians cannot embrace this pantheism, but they can
still have an active environmental conscience. This is a particular challenge to the
Protestant church that has been strongly associated with views that emphasises
humanity’s mastery over, and separation from, the physical earth.

Let us think and act with Biblical balance with regard to the physical earth. When
doing this we fulfil our nature as God’s image-bearers who are given rule over the
earth – but a rule bounded by God’s word and the fact that it remains His earth and
not ours.