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Honoring the Creation

God loves creation and so must we.

Law and Creation (4)

“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Deuteronomy 25.4

Love creation
God loves the world, which is His creation. He loves it so much that He sent His only Son to redeem it from sin and to reconcile it to Himself (Jn. 3.16; 2 Cor. 5.17-21). Because God loves His creation, we His people must love it, and we must encourage others to love it as well. Loving God’s creation is a measure of the love we have for Him and the sine qua non for right stewardship of what God has entrusted to us. The various creatures of the world fulfill distinct roles within the divine economy. They are all God’s servants to accomplish His (often mysterious) purposes (Ps. 119.89-91).

Further, the creation bears witness to God in all its aspects, whether of the creation per se or the peoples and cultures that inhabit and use it (cf. Ps. 19.1-4; Acts 14.17). We may learn about God and His will from the creation, thus enhancing our ability to know and love Him as He commands. And we may honor God and bring glory to Him by using His creation as He intends.

Thus, we who believe in Jesus must work to understand the world as God’s servant and revealer; and we must honor it as such, using each aspect of the creation in ways consistent with the demands of love for God and neighbor.

Proper stewardship of the creation depends on our seeing and using what He has made in ways that reflect His love for the world and its creatures.

Honor God’s creatures
So we must not mistreat the creatures in our own service, whether oxen or waterways or lands, or the resources of culture entrusted to us for doing good works unto the Lord. An ox is not merely a “dumb animal” to be used and used up; it is a gift provided from God to be cared for and used as He intends, to bring out more of His goodness in the world. The Law of God thus instructed that an ox at work must expect proper respect and provision from those it serves. Paul applied this teaching to himself and all those who minister the Word of God (1 Cor. 9.8-12). It applies to all the creatures within the reach of our active will.

We must also take care to honor whatever of the creation has been entrusted to our neighbors, lest we cause our neighbor’s stewardship to suffer impairment or interruption (cf. Ex. 22.1, 4; Lev. 24.18, 21; etc.).

In the divine economy outlined for the people of ancient Israel, even the land was to be honored according to God’s design. Lands were to be given rest from cultivation every seven years, that they might replenish their strength and continue to be fruitful in perpetuity. Farmers today demonstrate their sense of the wisdom of resting the land by rotating crops, liming and fertilizing exhausted soils, and sowing nitrogen-producing plants into fields to replenish them.

We may also honor the creation by creating sanctuaries which preserve flora and fauna untouched by human development or abuse; by feeding the song birds; even by learning the names of particular creatures and understanding something of their unique contribution to the wellbeing of the environment and the glory of God. Naming the creatures was a task assigned to Adam and, in a more limited manner, to us as part of the process of honoring and exercising proper stewardship over the creation (cf. Gen. 2.19, 20).

What applies to the creation—honoring and caring for it, using it in ways consistent with the purposes of God’s glory—applies as well to the cultural products we make from the creation and use for our own sustenance and enrichment. Does it glorify God to change our oil every 3,000 miles? I find no contradiction, nor do I think it trivial, to answer that question in the affirmative. To keep our homes in good working order? Our yards properly maintained? If we keep our cultural resources in good repair, we will share in God’s love for them and our ability to use them in the Lord’s service will be enhanced (Eccl. 10.10).

Learn about creation
We honor the creation when we love it as God does. When we delight in the creation the way God does, we will use the things of His world to know and serve Him joyfully and fruitfully.

It follows that, if we love God and delight in His creation, we will study to learn about the creatures within our purview and take care to use them in ways that reflect God’s purposes and further His blessings and glory on earth (cf. Ps. 111.2). Indifference toward and ignorance of the creatures around us does not honor them. Which of us would feel honored if some supervisor couldn’t remember our name or if our pastor didn’t take the time to learn anything about us? Refusing to learn about the creation is an insult to God, Who gives us these glorious gifts. Love the songbirds that visit your feeders, the trees that adorn your yard and community, and the humble wildflowers that wave at you wherever you go, and you will love Him more Who sends these precious gifts to you freely.

They who take the time to learn about the works of God in creation and culture are more likely to appreciate the beauty and utility of His works and less likely to abuse them in ways that violate His purposes and contradict the goals of His economy. And they will honor God and glorify Him more consistently and with joy.

The Law of God assumes people understand that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Ps. 24.1). If we hope to use the creatures and culture of this world in ways that demonstrate love for God and for our neighbors, we must be willing to invest the effort of study, learning, and careful use that such effective, God-honoring stewardship requires.

For reflection
1. Are there aspects of the creation in your immediate environment that you find beautiful? Delightful? Do you know their names?

2. David wrote that the heavens declare the glory of God. How much do you know about the night sky? Where do you see God’s glory there?

3. What role does Psalm 111.2 have in your relationship with the Lord?

Next steps—Transformation: Make a point to learn the names of aspects of the creation around you. Give God thanks daily and specifically for the gifts of creation He provides.

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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