Creation of Adam / Michelangelo. Environmental stewardship
Creation of Adam / Michaelangelo (Sistine Chapel, 1510)

Not many people search Google to find out what the Bible says about environmental stewardship. Maybe no one sees a connection between “religion” and the issues of the day. 

Yet according to Psalm 24:1, the Earth and everything in it belongs to God. He made it. He put people in charge of running it. People choose to run it any other way but his. 

For most of human history, people have had little regard for the environment. Even prehistoric people hunted some animals to extinction. Even their farming and other technology were partly good and partly bad for the environment. 

But until the Industrial Revolution, we couldn’t do much more than local damage.

Then we started powering machines by burning coal. We used a lot of water to make things. And dumped it into our lakes and rivers when we were finished with it. Our industrial processes polluted air, water, and the ground. 

And now the climate is warming. At the very least, our machinery and lifestyles accelerate global warming if they haven’t caused it in the first place.

But remember—our current environmental crises come not because the Industrial Revolution brought anything new. It just brought environmental callousness to a greater scale than ever before.

That means that whatever the Bible has to say about environmental stewardship still applies, and on a larger scale.

Sin, the environment, and social justice

Of all the relevant scriptures, I’ll describe only Ezekiel 34:17-22 in this article. 

It describes fat and lean sheep. The fat sheep eat the best of the pasture and tread down the rest of it. They drink clear water and muddy the rest with their feet. The lean sheep have nothing left to eat and drink except what the fat sheep have fouled.

Sound familiar?

God pledged to judge between one sheep and another and rescue his flock. Beginning with the earliest prophetic writings and ending with Revelation, the Bible describes the coming day of the Lord when God will destroy the wicked. Only people who acknowledge God as God will survive. 

(By the way, we can only look at other people’s outward appearance. God knows the state of each heart and judges accordingly. Eventually, everyone will acknowledge his justice.)

In the meantime, we will continue to suffer the consequences of our bad choices. Reading the plagues in Revelation, it appears that humanity will eventually make the land uninhabitable. They are the consequences of poor environmental stewardship.

The end of this world is not a bad thing, but a good thing. After all, the result of God’s intervention will be the destruction of evil and the restoration of the bountiful goodness we were supposed to take care of in the first place.  


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