|To Enjoy and to Conserve|
Creation Matters (5)
The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.
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The earth is the Lord’s, but He has entrusted it to the care of men, to exercise a dominion of stewardship intended to bring out the goodness and glory of God in all our interactions with the creation. The immediate purpose of this is to provide for the needs of men in a setting where goodness, beauty, truth, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit can flourish. Of course, men who have not embraced the redemption that is in Jesus Christ will follow their own agenda in developing and using the resources of the creation. But, for their part, the followers of Jesus must work hard to follow all that God requires of them in developing and caring for the earth and its resources in a way that both benefits men and blesses God.
One obscure Scripture in the Law of God contains a wealth of insight to guide believers in caring for and using the earth. In Deuteronomy 22:6, 7 we read, “‘If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.’” Let’s make three observations about this text.
First, God provides the resources of the creation to accomplish His good purposes in caring for the community of mankind. The words “go well” in the Hebrew actually recall God’s “good” and “very good” of Genesis 1, suggesting that it is in accord with His original plan for men to use the resources of the creation to provide for their needs. At first it might seem cruel to take the eggs and chicks, but there is an important message in this. The eggs and chicks can be replaced; and the mother bird is precisely the creature which can do that. Thus, in the second place, men must use the resources of the creation in a responsible manner, one that ensures that those resources will be available for the generations to come. The creation and its resources are, indeed, ours to enjoy, but they are also ours to preserve. We must not mindlessly clear forests, alter the course of rivers, hunt wild game, or harvest the edible fruit of plants and trees. Rather, we must always think beyond our immediate needs to the long-term needs of the human community. The challenge in using the resources of the earth is thus to balance enjoying them with conserving them for future use.
Finally, we can see the wisdom of this principle in the way developers, farmers, and industrialists are working to act more responsibly in the ways they develop the creation. Erosion control, mountaintop replanting, tree farms, fish and game stocking, acreage set-asides, wetlands preservation – these are all examples of the wisdom of God’s Law written on the hearts of men, teaching them to pursue creation matters in a way that mirrors the purposes of God for His cosmos.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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