Why should Christians care about the creation? Isn’t the material world going to burn up one day anyway? If our citizenship is in heaven, why should we care about the earth?
If faith really does affect every part of our lives, then we need to ask and answer these types of questions.
In the opening chapter of my book Every Good Thing, I briefly address some foundational questions related to caring for the material realm, but additional observations will help us better answer these types of questions as we seek to develop a biblical perspective on living in (and caring for) the material world for the common good.
1. We care for creation because Christianity is a comprehensive worldview.
First, Christianity is a comprehensive worldview, not a philosophy disconnected from everyday life. As such, Christianity and the gospel message should affect every area of our existence, including the salvation of souls, the reformation of morals and the restoration of the material world. Indeed, this is a foundational premise of my book, Every Good Thing.
“Restoring all the things,” to use Peter’s phrase from Acts 3:21, will not be finally and completely accomplished until the return of Christ, yet our desire to be faithful stewards should motivate us to interact with this fallen world in light of what it will one day be. Doing so is part of our labor as image-bearers of God. In fact, as Genesis 1–2 reveals, the earth was not designed to function properly apart from human care. God made the earth to be stewarded by humanity.
A lack of interest in the material world is profoundly unbiblical.
2. We care for creation because we live in it.
Second, the created order is where we dwell—where we labor and rest—and it is the sphere of God’s redemptive activities. We should take an active interest in caring for it. Along these lines the psalmist wrote, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2). In Scripture, this pattern of interest in the material world is manifest among the people of God. For example, 1 Kings 4:33 notes,
[Solomon] spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish.
Similarly, during his reign, David appointed forestry and agricultural officials throughout Israel (1 Chronicles 27:27–28). And it is said that godly King Uzziah “loved the soil” (2 Chronicles 26:10). Such an interest in God’s creation ought to be prevalent among and displayed by God’s people. A lack of interest in the material world is profoundly unbiblical.
3. We care for creation because it reveals God’s character.
We should also be motivated to engage with and care for creation knowing that, in so doing, we can gain knowledge of God. Indeed, God began to reveal himself to us in the context of creation (Genesis 1–2), and Scripture further testifies to the understanding of God available to us through the material world (see Psalm 19:1–6; 104; Romans 1:19–20). Paul teaches that this knowledge can be “clearly perceived” (Romans 1:20) since God made the world and those in it. Since all that God does reflects his character and communicates his essence, creation necessarily reveals its creator.
More specifically, though, Scripture provides examples of the Lord appealing to his own work in the material world as a means of revealing himself to his people. Perhaps the best example of this is God’s response to Job’s questions about his suffering: in this dialogue, God gives a detailed narrative about his own creative genius (see Job 38:1–41:34).
4. We care for creation because doing so validates and displays the gospel.
Finally, our care for creation, pursued in a biblical manner, both validates and displays the gospel message. Just as many of Jesus’ miracles communicated the triumph of the gospel over sin-tainted creation, so our care for the material world and those in it can communicate the same message— albeit in a less powerful and less comprehensive way.
Jesus healed the sick; we can care for them. Jesus created food; we can prepare and distribute it. Jesus calmed the storm; we can steward the environment. Furthermore, as with all other areas of Christian living, our actions to bring the gospel to bear upon the fallen material world will answer many of Christianity’s detractors and may prove attractive to the watching world.