How should Christians treat the environment?

The idea of protecting the environment and being "green" has become very popular over the last few years. I have heard some people suggest that Christians should not care about being "green" because God has given us this planet to use how we want[1]. However, this philosophy is completely non-Biblical, and here I will examine the evidence that Christians should care how we treat the environment.

God Cares for Nature

There is plenty of evidence in the Bible that God cares about nature. His view is not limited to people alone, but also cares about animals and nature.

  • "Aren't two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground." (Matthew 10:29)
  • "Look at the birds in the sky! They don't plant or harvest. They don't even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them."(Matthew 6:26)
  • "Look how the wild flowers grow. They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow."(Matthew 6:29-30)
  • "You provide streams of water in the hills and valleys so that the donkeys and other wild animals can satisfy their thirst. Birds build their nests nearby and sing in the trees. From your home above you send rain on the hills and water the earth. You let the earth produce grass for cattle, plants for our food, wine to cheer us up, olive oil for our skin and grain for our health."(Psalm 104:10-15)

Nature shows God's Character

What God has made is a witness to us about his character. Romans 1:19 says "They know everything that can be known about God, because God has shown it all to them. God's eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made.". If you think about it, creation does show many of God's characteristics. The universe is so vast that we can't even understand or measure it, similar to how God is beyond our understanding. All the physical constants and laws God has built into creation show he is the most intelligent being of all, and that he is orderly and when we understand and explore science, we are seeing God's order and intelligence behind creation. The beauty of our surroundings shows God cares about aesthetics and is the best artist - who paints with sunsets and sculpts the earth with rain and oceans. The power of earthquakes and disasters warns us of God's power and ability to destroy those who don't follow him. The way animals take care of their young shows how God cares for us even more. This info-graphic here [2] is quite good at showing God's creation from the very tiniest particle up to the largest size of the universe. It is amazing to think that the God who created all this is the same God that cares about every sparrow, and every person on earth and wants to know you personally.

We are to worship and praise him for what he has made, but not worship nature itself: "They gave up the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped God's creation instead of God, who will be praised forever." (Romans 1:25). So we are to look at nature and worship God for it, and think about how nature reveals God's character. But we aren't supposed to care more about being "green" and loving animals than about serving and loving God.

We are Stewards of Nature

Some people have interpreted the Bible verse "Fill the earth with people and bring is under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on earth" (Genesis 1:27) to mean that people have the right to do whatever they want with the planet. However, this is not true. These people miss the verse which says "The Lord God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it." (Genesis 2:15). So while we were given the ability to rule over nature, we are also instructed to take care of it, not ruin it. In Hebrew "to take care" also has meanings of "preserve", "keep", "watch", "maintain", "defend", and "attend."[1]. In fact, in Revelation 11:18, God promises to punish people who destroy the earth. Since Revelation chapter 11 has not happened yet, it must still be in the future. This is comforting to know that those who have purposely polluted the earth without care will be held responsible for their actions.

However, God knows that we need to use the resources on earth to survive. Some of the environmentalists lately make it sound as if people should have no right to use any of the earth's resources and we should go live "in harmony" with nature. This is false - God has specifically told us we can use the earth for farming and the animals for food. While we should try to take care with it the best we can, but in modern life it is guaranteed that we will make waste and will use chemicals and burn coal/gas for energy. I have heard an analogy that God assigning the care of creation to humanity is equivalent to a parent telling a two year old to clean up and take care of a closet. The parent knows full well that the two year old will just make it worse. People are not mature enough yet to know how to balance our desires for cities and products with taking care of nature, most likely because Adam and Eve sinned and all humanity is fallen. I suspect that if Adam and Eve did not fall, we would still have developed cities and transportation, and would have been able to use oil (after all, God did make the plants and animals which were converted into oil, and gave us the brains to figure out how to use it), but it would be much more sustainable and would not destroy nature. Greed, money, and politics would not get in the way of caring for the environment as it seems to today.

So in the meantime, we should try to do the best we can to clean up and not pollute what is left on this planet. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon because the world is now run by greedy corporations. People care more about money than God's very first commandment to humans to take care of the earth. As Christians, we should try to do things like recycle and conserve energy when possible. We should support cleaning up pollution and reducing toxic waste, and also make sure that animals are not abused or misused. We don't have to be vegetarian - God has given us the right to eat animals (Genesis 9:2-3), but we should make sure they don't suffer unnecessarily beforehand. We can participate in things that are "green" such as hybrid cars, sustainable energy, etc. However, we must make sure that we do this out of love for God and for His creation, not because we worship being environmentally friendly. God doesn't want us to go "back to nature" and he knows that is not possible anymore. Even in heaven and on the new earth there will be cities and production of goods (Revelation 21:11-27), but I suspect the city will incorporate large parks and lots of plants, as described: "The angel showed me a river that was crystal clear, and its waters gave life... it flowed down the middle of the city's main street. On each side of the river are trees that grow a different kind of fruit each month of the year." (Revelation 22:1-2).

God is Master of Nature

But also God is master over nature, and is allowed to destroy it if it is his will. God sometimes purposely uses nature as a way of punishing or warning people to turn back to him (Deuteronomy 28:23-24, 29:22-23, Jeremiah 12:4). The best example of this is Noah's flood, where God flooded the whole earth and destroyed most of the people and many animals because they were so corrupt and evil (Genesis chapters 6-8). Also God used the plagues of Egypt to try to convince the Pharaoh to let the Jews leave and return to Israel (Exodus chapters 7-12). There is a time coming when God will use many natural disasters to shake people's security and to try to convince them to turn to Him. This time is called the "Tribulation" and is described in the book of Revelation. The disasters here will be worse than the flood or the plagues of Egypt, and may include several meteor strikes, severe droughts, burning up large patches of trees, turning rivers bitter and undrinkable, and altering the physical chemistry of the oceans (Revelation chapters 6-16). This is only temporary though, and once Jesus returns to earth, nature will be restored to even better than it was before.

Nature is fallen, but will be restored

"In fact, all creation is eagerly waiting for God to show who his children are. Meanwhile, creation is confused, but not because it wants to be confused. God made it this way in the hope that creation would be set free from decay and would share in the glorious freedom of his children. We know that all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth." (Romans 8:19-22). Since the fall of Adam and Eve, nature has been cursed with entropy and decay, and it has been hard to farm and live off the land (Genesis 3:17-19). But we can look forward to a time when the earth is restored, and the curse will be removed. This happens partially when Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation, but will be further fixed and perfected at the beginning of eternity, after the Great White Throne judgement. Isaiah told of a time when "Wolves and lambs will graze together; lions and oxen will feed on straw."(Isaiah 65:25). Which shows a complete restructuring of the food chain, and suggests that all creatures may become vegetarian and live in harmony. However, "My people will live in the houses they build, they will enjoy grapes from their own vineyards." (Isaiah 65:21) which suggests people will still have homes and farms and most likely other types of production as well.


So to sum it all up, as Christians we are not supposed to pollute and destroy the earth. We were instructed to take care of it, but we can still use it to live off of and use the resources God has given us. We should try to not waste, and can try to be environmentally friendly whenever possible. But we need to make sure that the environment doesn't become more important than worshiping and loving God. God is the one who made everything in the entire universe, and deserves praise for the wonderful creation. Even though it is not perfect now, in the future nature will be perfected, and those who love God will be able to enjoy a renewed and improved planet earth for eternity.

It is absolutely amazing to know that God who made the entire universe cares so much for us and wants to know every person individually. God knows the numbers of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30), and made you and knew everything you would do, even before you were born! (Psalm 139:13-16). The same God who created the largest star in the universe cares about you and wants to have a relationship with you. This is why God sent his son Jesus to come to earth as a human, and to die for your sins and mine. All we have to do is believe that Jesus was God, His death paid for our sins, and to love and follow Him, and then when we die or when Jesus returns we will be with Him forever.

[1] - Is Christianity anti-Environmental?
[2] - Scale of Universe info-graphic