53 years ago, when I was a junior in High school, our nation celebrated the first Earth Day. It occurred on April 22, 1970. The Vietnam War was raging. The Hippie movement was in full force. Richard Nixon was in the White House as President and was determined to make improving the environment a policy goal. Maybe it was just me, but the celebration seems to have lost some of its punch. However, over the weekend, many churches celebrated this event. In a real sense, they were worshipping the creation more than the creator.
The event did get me thinking. What should our attitude be towards this planet and all that is ours in it? The Psalmist declared that all creation testifies to God’s glory (Psalm 19:1-6). I believe strongly that as Christians, we should be good stewards of the earth’s resources, pick up trash, maintain the landscape, and engage in activities that promote the welfare of God’s creation. The attitude and action of caring for creation can serve as a powerful witness. After all, Adam and Eve were given the responsibility to cultivate and keep the earth (Genesis 2:15). But as we do so, we need to remember three important truths.
First, the fate of the planet is, ultimately, not in the hands of mankind. While humans are responsible for caring for the earth (as per the “Dominion mandate” in Genesis 1:26-28), we are not in control of the earth. Rather it belongs to the Creator Himself (Psalm 24:1), who has made us His earthly stewards.
Second, the fate of the living planet is not the most important issue facing mankind. Ultimately, this decaying system will be replaced with a new heaven and earth anyway (Romans 8:20–22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1; Hebrews 1:10–12). Rather, the most important issue facing mankind is this: will the individual choose to acknowledge his Creator and be reconciled to Him? Romans 1:20 makes it clear that knowledge of God is, at least on some level, evident to all, so those who refuse to acknowledge their Maker are without excuse.
For Christians, the most important concern is that of sharing with others the good news about the Creator, who came to earth to redeem His creation from the curse of sin.
Finally, a proper and balanced perspective on caring for the earth and its inhabitants comes not from merely promoting “environmental awareness” but from following the Biblical framework, i.e. recognizing humans were created by a loving God and given the responsibility to rule over, subdue, and care for the rest of the Creation, once “very good,” but now suffering from the curse of sin.
Today’s tendency to worship and serve created things, as can happen with some Earth Day activities, is tantamount to idolatry. Instead, we should give glory and honor to the Creator and return to the authority of His Word.