“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:28)
Genesis 1:28 speaks of God blessing a couple, male and female, and few if any couples I know have been blessed as much or as often as Christie and me. Our latest blessing has been a trip in May with our dearest friends, Sparky and Gail Dyson, to Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Words, smart phone photos and videos are all unable to adequately capture the majestic beauty of what we saw: rich meadows bordered by towering mountain cliffs like El Capitan and Half Dome; giant sequoia trees over 2,000 years old, including the General Sherman Tree – the largest living organism on earth; spectacular waterfalls connected to sparkling river rapids; wildflowers of every color imaginable; and even on the drives to and from the parks, vista after vista after vista.
A very important part of our blessing was the education we received while experiencing all this beauty. In addition to the informative films offered at the parks, we spent our evenings watching the Ken Burns documentary series that Sparky brought along – “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”. We learned about people like Galen Clark and John Muir who helped “discover” these beautiful places and became the pioneers of conservation efforts to protect them from exploitation and destruction, and people in government like Stephen Mather, Horace Albright and President Theodore Roosevelt, who caused those protections to become reality through development of the first national park system in the world. Their combined efforts kept those sequoia trees from being cut down and places like Yosemite and Yellowstone National Park from becoming, in their own words, “another Niagara Falls”.
As I experienced and learned, my heart was deeply moved by a recognition that far too many Christians in our nation today has made the environment, first and foremost, a political issue, when in fact, it is first and foremost a spiritual issue.
God, who is good, created the heavens, the earth, and all things on earth (Psalm 34:8; Genesis 1). The good Creator rightly called His creation both “good” and “very good” (Genesis 1:10, 31; 1 Timothy 4:4).
The earth and all that is in it still belong to God as Creator (Psalm 89:11). In its wonderous, intricate beauty and diversity, His creation reveals to us His power, His glory and His divine nature (Psalm 19:1-2; Romans 1:19-20)
Mankind was part of God’s creation on earth. We were created in God’s image and likeness because God wants children and family (Luke 3:38; John 1:12-13, 3: 3-6; Romans 8:29). And as part of this plan to have family, God assigned mankind from the beginning a family responsibility over what He created. Fill, subdue and rule the earth and all the living things, plant and animal, upon it (Genesis 1:26-30; see also Psalm 8:3-8, 115:16).
Although some might try to argue from this biblical language that God simply deeded the earth over to us to do whatever we wanted, it is abundantly clear that our authority remains under His authority and that we are responsible to God for how we exercise it. The companion revelation of Genesis 2 illustrates this in showing how the Lord gave mankind a kickstart to our assignment – the Garden of Eden. He then commanded us to “abad” (work, cultivate) the land and “shamar” (keep, guard and protect) it (Genesis 2:15). When we moved out from under God’s authority in sin, seeking to “do our own thing”, we lost both our rights to the Garden and our ability to effectively steward the rest of the earth (Genesis 3:17-24).
The one-word mantras of unredeemed mankind are “me”, “mine” and “now”: self-centered and short-sighted attitudes that inevitably lead, among other things, to irresponsibility in how we steward the earth. [In his excellent book, “Culture Shock”, Chip Ingram provides an equally descriptive list: greed, ignorance and carelessness (page 190).] As a result, we cut down sequoia trees, litter highways, slaughter buffalo herds, pollute waterways, lie about Volkswagen exhaust emissions, and build souvenir stands in front of natural wonders.
Such irresponsibility is both a sin against God and a trespass against future generations. Creation itself is “groaning” because it is “subjected to futility” and in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:19-22).
I am not trying to argue here that scripture prohibits all pipelines or all use of carbon-based fuels. The Bible does declare, however, that God made a good creation as a blessing to mankind and a revelation of His glory and character, and that His children should be doing their best to keep it that way.
God bless you, and God bless our communities.