“You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken. . . .O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” Psalm 104:5, 24, NRSV.
A common exclamation of many believers around the world is “God is great.” The phrase—often using variants such as “Our God is an awesome God,” or “God is good, all the time”— is so common that atheist Christopher Hitchens added the word not to the title of his book decrying belief.1 Even children memorize the formulaic, poetic blessing before meals, “God is great; God is good . . .”
But God is not only great, He is also green. No, not the color, like some cosmic Kermit the Frog; rather, green in the sense of being conscious of the environment and concerned about us, as His creation, being good stewards of what He entrusts.
Our world’s resources, and even the planet itself, are rapidly decaying, faster than we can imagine. While many people debate the causes, the effects are obvious to all: climate change, problems in the animal world, health problems, and rising concerns about sustainability. The looming question is whether we can sustain all the life teeming on this planet. We are already over six billion people on earth right now. And if, as projected, the planet’s population grows by an additional one billion in the next two decades, the question of sustainability grows even more draconian.
How then should we, as ministers of Christ Jesus, look at this subject? What can we do to help?
One of the key answers, I believe, is found in Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (KJV). This is not our planet; it is God’s! He is the One who can truly claim ownership of all the land, no matter what the deed to your home might say.
If He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10, NIV), then surely He owns the very hills themselves. But our loving Creator has entrusted them to us—both the cattle and the hills.
Contemplate God’s first command to humans—even before He completed His creation by resting on the seventh-day Sabbath: “ ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ ” (Gen. 1:28, NKJV).
Imagine! Our Creator entrusts His creation to His creatures. We humans, the crowning consequence of His creativity, are given responsibility for everything else He made. God is great! God is good! God is green!
Today, a “green” tsunami rolls through the world as entire nations re-examine their way of dealing with the environment. We are being vigilant to recycle more and take better care of the planet.
At this time when scientists and political leaders (many of them secularists) are concerned about the environment, ought not creationists be even more concerned and involved? Even though I fervently believe that Jesus is returning soon, I do not know the date. Therefore, as former United States Interior Secretary James Watt once told a congressional hearing, “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage [the planet] with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.”2
Take a look around your congregation. Someone might be toting a copy of The Green Bible, a publication using the New Revised Standard Version text which includes notes on how to care for the earth from a Christian perspective. And don’t be surprised if the Humane Society (one of the groups using this Bible to enlist religious groups to spread the environmental message) promotes a plant-based diet as being better for the planet, better for the animals, and, yes, even better for you and your congregation.
Of course, our concern for the planet must never surpass our concern for people and bringing the good news of Jesus to them. The ultimate salvation for this planet will not be found in ecofriendly lightbulbs, but rather in He who is the Light of the world.
At the same time, if we say we love people, surely we have a responsibility to those same people to exercise dominion over the planet in a responsible fashion and leave it in respectable condition for however many generations follow.
God wanted Adam to tend and dress the Garden; He expects no less from us.
1 Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve Books, 2007).
2 James Watt, quoted in David Neff, “Second Coming Ecology,” Christianity Today 52, no. 7 (July 2008), http://tinyurl.com/45zjcf (accessed Sept. 24, 2008).