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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Earth Is the Lord's

And we are His stewards.

Law and Creation (1)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1.1, 2

The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.
Psalm 24.1, 2

Creation vulnerable
All human wealth ultimately derives from the resources of the earth. In an economy in which the acquisition of wealth is the driving force, the creation is vulnerable to being exploited by those who regard it merely as a means of aggrandizing personal wellbeing. We must admit, that is not an entirely unfounded fear. The record of human history, as Wendell Berry (among others) has shown, is one of exploitation and waste when it comes to enjoying the riches of the created order.

The environmental movement has grown up in recent decades to resist individual and corporate practices that threaten the integrity and continuity of the environment. What began as a campaign against pesticides and littering has grown into a full-blown movement focused on saving the planet from the harmful effects of human self-interest. So appealing has “saving the environment” become that certain aspects of it have grown into a worldwide political movement espousing catastrophic visions and pursuing specious courses of action.

The Law of God is clear—from the very first words—that the earth and its creatures belong to God. Therefore, they must be used in a manner consistent with His justice. Love for God and neighbor requires that we regard the creation as a resource to be used and developed with care, respect, and proper foresight. God created and sustains all the creatures of the world; they are His to give as He pleases. He expects those to whom He entrusts His creation—the land and all its creatures and resources—to receive and develop it in ways that reflect His holy and righteous and good character and will.

It is altogether appropriate, therefore, to work for public policies that reflect the divine ownership of the creation and mankind’s calling to exercise good stewardship over the gifts of God. God has given the earth to humankind as a gift to be understood, developed, and enjoyed (Ps. 115.16). We are stewards of His creation. The role of a steward is to receive and invest the gifts of God so that His purposes are realized and His glory is exalted (Matt. 25.14-30). The creation must not be regarded either as a resource to be exploited or a tool for achieving political ends. It declares—and our use of it must gratefully refract—the wisdom, beauty, majesty, wonder, and goodness of God.

Creation and God’s purpose
At the same time, it is important to remember that God has created the environment and everything in it to be developed and used for human wellbeing and unto His glory. The creation and its creatures are God’s servants for His purpose (Ps. 19.89-91), and His purpose is for human beings to glorify Him in all things (1 Cor. 10.31).

The environment must not be treated as something to be revered and preserved for its own sake. The creation and its creatures are not to be worshiped. As good stewards of the creation we must learn to use it in ways that benefit all human beings and honor God by bringing out the glory and purpose of the Creator in all our use of His creatures.

Further, the environment must not be used as a staging-ground, or to support, wicked and self-serving practices that dishonor God. The pagan peoples of Canaan were rejected from their land precisely for this reason.

The earth is the Lord’s; we must learn to use it for His glory and honor. And, while the Law of God does not offer anything like a full-blown environmental program, there is enough in it to frame out our thinking concerning the kinds of public policies that can reflect the Lord’s purposes for His creatures.

Law and creation
In this part of our study of “The Law of God and Public Policy” we will consider those statutes and precepts which have a bearing on the ways human beings must use the creation if our use is to line up with the purposes of God. We will see that both conservation and development of the environment, as well as profitable and enjoyable use, are sanctioned by the Law of God, which can thus serve us as we think about contributing to discussions of public policy in this arena.

At the same time, the Law will teach us to regard the creation with wisdom, to restrain our lust to consume, to take the long view of creation, and to practice a kind of stewardship that refers all our use of the creation to God for His glory.

Christians must not simply go along with the agendas and policies the secular world embraces with respect to the creation. Though these may be entirely well-intended, they will only work for the benefit of the environment to the extent they follow—or perhaps merely stumble onto—the clear teaching of Scripture about how we must use the world and its resources and creatures.

For reflection
1. Are you involved with any environmental organizations or issues? Should you be?

2. Consider the creation God has entrusted to you—land, creatures, cultural objects, and so forth. What is your approach to being a steward over these gifts for God’s glory?

3. What concerns do you have about becoming more involved in thinking environmentally?

Next steps—Preparation: Spend some time in prayer reflecting on the questions above. Ask God to guide you into a clearer understanding and proper use of His creation.

T. M. Moore

What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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