But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
A wonderful national park system has been developed to protect, preserve, and display nature’s impressive wonders of the earth. It is good, wise, and obedient to steward the earth that God has created and placed under man’s dominion.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”—Genesis 1:26
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.— Psalm 8:3–6
The word “dominion,” meaning subdue or rule, can sound harsh and tyrannical when defined out of context. But when read in context, it indicates a kind of rule: cultivate the land, keep the earth, service the garden, oversee it, invest care in it. Godly dominion implies understanding the thing being managed, and putting it to uses that are wise.
Care of creation is a biblical value, one that lies within a constellation of other values, some of them being more important than care of creation, like care of souls. To say such a thing is not to pit one value against the other, except on the hopefully rare occasion when a lower value attempts to supersede a higher value.
We can usually pursue a both/and approach to seas and souls, the heavens and the hearts. We can strive to save both mortal mammals and immortal souls, while realizing that saved whales will not save souls, while saved souls might so earnestly desire for everything that has breath to praise God that they set out to save whales. So wise Christians put their God-given energy where it might make the greatest difference in the long haul. Once again God presents us with a situation that is both/and, and first/then. Save them both, but put priority on one over the other.
More important than preserving wonderful national park settings for people to see is to preserve souls in order that they may see the new earth, which will be superior to the wonderful old earth. It would be a tragedy to preserve the planet for people who would dwell in hell and never see the new earth, when they could have been born from above and lived forever in the glorious new earth. Saving souls is more important than saving whales—though saving one need not preclude saving the other.
God intends for his original plan to be fulfilled. Jesus is both Savior and Creator, so when he saves, he is saving what he created. We are memorizing this year in the Sermon on the Mount that the Creator cares for the sparrow and for the lily. When he rescued Noah, he rescued him with a floating zoo of creepy-crawlies. Degradation of the environment, including loss of species, impoverishes creation’s ability to bring God praise as Creator.
Meanwhile, man’s most grave danger is not ecological. Physical survival is not our main quest. Do not fear environments that can kill the body, but fear environments that can kill both body and soul in hell.
Genesis 2 tells us that man was made out of soil—what a transformation! And transformed soil (people) will be transformed yet again into glorified beings. So, too, the new heavens and the new earth will be nearly indescribable upgrades of the present earth with her picturesque parks teeming with a fantastic array of flora and fauna.
Some social engineers want to provide people with external incentives (penalties under law) to protect the environment. But externally coerced sin nature left untransformed does not go to the root of a whale-shortage problem or any other planet-saving issue. Short-sighted selfishness will always tend toward corruption and find ways around human regulation. The best means to saving whales is heart change, the kind of heart change that occurs in a saved soul.
I’m arguing that the best way to save the whales is to save souls that then become eager, willing stewards of the work of God’s fingers. It becomes their joyful desire to see him glorified in and by everything that has breath. Whose earth is it? The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. A transformed heart takes a new attitude toward all that belongs to God.
Praising our Creator God with you,
Executive Pastor/Lead Pastor for Life Training