God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
-Genesis 1:26, The Message Bible
Earth Day Challenge
U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970 as a tool for encouraging appreciation for and care of our earthly environment. The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, drew twenty million celebrants and marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
The call to care for our environment actually dates back much earlier. In the Garden of Eden God commanded the first human couple, and by implication the entire human race, to wisely manage the resources of the whole planet for the benefit of all humanity and of all life. Thus, environmentalism is a biblical mandate. God’s people, most of all, should be concerned about taking excellent care of the natural world.
One need not read many newspapers or popular magazines to recognize, however, that much hostile debate exists about how humans should go about that custodial and nurturing role. Many Christians ask me why God didn’t supplement His command to Adam and Eve with specific instructions about how we should manage all of Earth’s resources. My answer is that He did.
Though Genesis is the first book we encounter in the Holy Bible, there is high likelihood that the content of the book of Job predates it by several centuries. In Job there are no references to Hebraic culture, or for that matter to any political or economic events. Rather than sacrifices being offered by priests, instead, the family patriarch performs the offerings. The major gaps in the Genesis creation accounts are “filled in” by the creation content in Job, providing evidence of its earlier authorship.
In Job 38 and 39 God plies Job and his friends with over sixty questions pertaining to the physical creation. These are the questions for which humanity must gain thorough answers if it is ever to be successful in fulfilling the Genesis 1:28-30 command to assume wise stewardship over the creation. Therefore, the first place Earth Day celebrants and environmental agencies should go for guidance on how to best care for Earth is the book of Job.
Lately, one of the most frequent questions I am asked at speaking events concerns global warming. I typically stun audiences by informing them that the book of Job offers a far superior solution to the global warming problem than does our former vice president.
Much of the content of Job 38 concerns the precipitation of mist, rain, hail, and snow. Here, God describes how He exquisitely designed the precipitation of water to maximally provide for Earth’s life. An implication of this knowledge is that we should address climate crises by first correcting the damage we humans have brought upon Earth’s precipitation patterns.
The most astonishing examples of human disturbance of rainfall patterns include the recent growth in the size of the Sahara and Gobi Deserts. Today, the Sahara is ten times the size it was during the Roman era. The Gobi is three times bigger. Both deserts were enlarged as humans stripped the desert boundaries of vegetation.
One creative response to global warming calls for giving to the people living on the fringes of the Sahara and Gobi all the petroleum they want on the condition that they work with the rest of us to replant the desertified area. In so doing, the Sahara and Gobi regions could once again become breadbaskets for Africa, Europe, and China. At the same time, all that vegetation would soak up huge quantities of greenhouse gases and, thus, help cool the planet.
The creation accounts in Job emphasize the theme that God has so marvelously designed the universe, Earth, and all life that ethics and economics are always in sync. That is, the most ethical solution to mankind’s problems always will be identical to the most economic.
I encourage you to celebrate Earth Day by reading through all the creation accounts in Job. Such reading will help inform an appropriate response to environmental crises. Look for a list to be posted on our website in May, 2009.