In 1970, those concerned for the environment raised their voices higher and established this particular day for good deeds toward the planet.
40 years later, Earth Day has gained such force, that it has essentially become Earth Week. Anticipation seems to build, environmentally-focused commercials increase, and even sale papers call for consumers to buy more “environmentally friendly” products…quickly!
Within the whole conversation are extremes – those who value trees as much or more than humans, and those waste excessively as if to prove a point. In this “enviro-eco-green-save the everything” culture, Christians have to keep a few things in mind.
1. We are not pantheists
The most disturbing trend in the “green” movement is the clear move toward pantheism (the belief that God is all and in all, therefore, all is God). The earth has become the object of service, devotion, sacrifice, and (I dare say) worship.
This is simply intolerable. God is the Creator of all things, but He is also separate from His creation. He superintends His world, but He is not bound up in it. God created and cares even for the sparrows, but it does not follow that the sparrows are gods.
2. We are higher than the rest of the created order
Mankind alone is made in the image of God and his life is, therefore, of more value than the animals and plant life (Matthew 10:31).
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, not to be confused with People for the Eating of Tasty Animals) compares chicken farming to the Holocaust because they have no moral compass whatsoever. Extreme environmentalism has lost all sense because they never had a foundation on which to build their convictions.
Christians, on the other hand, have no excuse for not understanding the created order. Man is made in the image of God and his life is defended as such. Scripture calls for capital punishment against those who take the life of man, not because the murderer takes life, but because the murderer of man attacks the image of God (Genesis 9:6).
Killing animals for no good reason is deplorable, but not worthy of capital punishment. It should be punished by restitution, as Scripture teaches.
The problem with extreme environmentalism and animal rights activists is that they do not know where to stop. In fact, all of their shouting proves too much. Where are the tigers protesting abortion? Where are the zebras protesting war? We are above and distinct from the animal kingdom and the rest of the created order, and the shouting of those who say otherwise proves the point.
3. We are stewards
Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
Genesis 2:8 says, “The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.” God also commissions man to name the animals (vv.19-20), tells him to tend the garden (v.5), and tells him and his wife to subdue the earth, fill it, and have dominion over it (1:28). Man is told to eat the fruit and vegetables and, after the fall, he is allowed to kill and eat them and use them for clothing.
Taken together, Scripture is clear that man is a steward of the earth and the plants and animals in it. Stewardship means care and proper usage, including farming, hunting, planting, eating, fishing, and protecting.
As with nearly every issue, there are two ditches to fall in on this road – failure to distinguish between man and the created world, and failure to remember man’s place as steward over the created world. And, as always, Scripture teaches us how to stay out of the ditch and on the right road.