Worship the Creator
I was at a banquet honoring exceptional students a few years back, sitting at a table with a group of parents. “So, what’s your area of expertise?” one parent asked me. “I’m an environmental microbiologist,” I replied. “I study how bacteria interact with pollution, either making it worse or making it better.” Another parent chimed in with his opinion: “I guess it’s a good idea to recycle and conserve water when we can, but I think environmentalists take it too far. There are much more important things in life than trees and fish.”
Ouch. His tone indicated that I had fallen victim to his bundled worldview. In his mind, good Christian = conservative = republican = pro-life = anti-environmentalism. By contrast, when he heard the word “environmental” in my job title I got bundled into another category: environmental scientist = democrat = liberal = pro-abortion = tree-hugger. But since I don’t get the various beliefs that make up my worldview from either politicians or modern Christian culture, neither of those bundles fits me.
Instead, my worldview is built from building blocks I find in the Bible. And what I see in Scripture is that God is the Creator of the environment (Genesis 1); that He is pleased with His creation (Genesis 1:31); and that He has given mankind the responsibility to be stewards of that creation (Genesis 2:15). Though we’ll look more deeply at this topic later, these three points from the Old Testament are enough for me to believe that Creation care (a Christian way of saying “environmentalism”) is indeed a Biblical value.
But the guy who disparaged my career because “there are much more important things in life than trees and fish” did make a good point. There are indeed more important things in life. Jesus said that the two most important things are loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:37-40), and my life as a Christ follower needs to give the same priority to these two commandments as Jesus gave them.
But just because Jesus didn’t say “and the third is like them: care for the creation”, it doesn’t mean that it has zero importance. He didn’t answer the Pharisee’s question about the greatest commandment with “sound financial stewardship” or “a good work ethic” or “consistent church attendance” either, but we still place value on those things.
But our financial stewardship and work ethic and church attendance are all part of loving God and loving people, you might protest. And I would agree. But one might also argue that caring for God’s creation is an act of honor and obedience to the Creator, and good stewardship of natural resources like air and water is an act of love toward current and future generations.
Now, if you’re a biophile like me (a term coined by the preeminent ecologist E. O. Wilson, meaning someone who loves nature), you may face another, opposite challenge. When you are captivated by nature, enthralled with mountain vistas and ocean sunsets, and thrilled with the glimpse of a deer darting into the woods; when God brings healing and restoration to your soul through outdoor activities; and when you feel closest to the Creator when immersed in His creation; when you’re a biophile, the temptation to worship the creation rather than the Creator is very real. But the apostle Paul warns us against such an attitude (Romans 1:25) and John tells us that the Father seeks worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). As Christians, especially if we’re biophiles, we have to always be on our guard against the enemy’s efforts to turn our praises away from the Lord and toward nature.
So the next time you’re misunderstood by a brother or sister for your love of the outdoors, remember that you are living out the Scriptures. And when you find that a view from a mountain peak leaves you utterly speechless, remember to turn your praises to the one who gave you the gift.
Questions for thought
Are you suspicious of people who love nature, or are you more of a biophile?
Have you bundled environmental stewardship (i.e., creation care) with negative ideologies because of its place in modern politics? Or are you able to consider it independently of other ideologies that you might not agree with?
Does your life and attitude in regard to nature honor the Lord according to Genesis 1 and 2?
Creator God, help us to see your creation the way that you see it. If we disregard it, show us where it should fit into our priorities. If we are drawn to it, remind us with each thrill, with each beautiful experience, that you are the One worthy of our praises. Thank you, Lord, for revealing yourself to us in nature. May the eyes of our hearts be always open to see you in your wonderful works. Amen.