Q.What does the bible teach us about being good stewards of the earth and animals? Please include scripture references. I believe with all my heart that God created man to be good stewards of His creation until the day He calls us home. The earth and everything that breathes the air, drinks the water and every other thing, are that creation.
I feel as Christians we should do what we can to preserve and protect God's creation rather than to cause harm and destroy. Then we can also be comforted in knowing we did our best to care for and nurture His glorious creation as He would have done. We need to remember Matthew 10:29 - that even the sparrow does not fall to the ground without His notice. Isn't that awesome? When we stand before God in judgment we do not want Him to ask us why we stood idle and let so many sparrows fall.
Amen to that! Thank you for your question. This is a neglected subject in evangelical circles, and our stewardship over the earth and its animals is a subject dear to us, too. Your question will be especially helpful to high school and college students who are interested in proper management of our earth and its resources.
Woe to Those Who Join House to House
The Lord pronounced woe after woe upon His children who plundered the land. Because Scripture emphasizes "types" and examples for us to learn from, one message to Israel caught my attention:
"Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room… The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: 'Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitants'" (Isa. 5:8-9).
Isn't it interesting that we have such a large number of home foreclosures occurring in our land? In fact, some feel that 1 out of 100 home owners may lose their houses in the years ahead. "Many houses will stand deserted. Even beautiful mansions will be empty" (Isa 5:9, NLT).
Disregard for the Lord's Creation
Maybe we, too, have disregarded the land and the Lord's creation with our materialism and covetousness. Isaiah chapter five describes a nation gone amuck with its citizens destroying the land with excess materialism (v.8), food (v.12), drugs (v.11), parties fueled by wild music (v. 12) and disregard for God's creation (v. 12):
In bible language disregard for God's creation is found in this phrase: …"Nor do they consider the work of His hands" (Isa. 5:12b).
The Work of His Hands
What is the "work of His hands" mentioned in Isaiah 5:12 above?
Let's look at Psalm 8:3-9 to answer this question:
"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?…You make him to rule over the works of Your hands. You have put all things under his feet…All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea…"
Stewardship over the Universe
From these verses we clearly see that God gave man stewardship over all creation - the heavens, moon, stars (all of outer space), and over all of earth's wildlife and domesticated animals including birds, fish, sheep, oxen and beasts of the field. These are the "work of His hands."
Mankind Managers of the Earth Household
In fact, the Bible's words for "economics" and for "stewardship" are both derived from the same Greek word, "oikonomia." "Oikonomia" means that man is a manager of the "household of earth" (Silvius, pg. 2).
Man's Stewardship of the Original Garden of Eden
In the original Garden of Eden God filled this lovely place with animals of every description. There was such a large variety of life forms that God brought His creatures to Adam and commanded that he give them names.
"And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field" (Genesis 2:19-20, ESV).
In other words, Adam was a zoologist who categorized all living things. He was given dominion over the animals which meant that he would rule over and care for them.
"God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:26, ESV).
Animals were a part of Eden that God called "good" (Gen. 1:25). The Bible affirms from beginning to end that animals have souls. In Genesis 1:20, 24, we find the Hebrew word for "soul" (nephesh) used of animals. This word refers to the appetites and desires of all living things, including the drives for sex and for food. Revelation 8:9 uses the Greek word for "soul" (psuchas) in reference to sea creatures - although this word can sometimes have the meaning of "physical life."
Man's Stewardship over Land
God even expects us to care for his land. According to Old Testament law we are to let our land rest one year out of every seven. The Lord wasn't kidding when He said this. Israel was taken captive into Babylon for seventy years because they violated this law. Jeremiah warned, "This whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (Jer. 25:11). This is what Daniel read when he realized his people's time of captivity was over. 70 years was the number of seventh-year rests for the land that the Jews had failed to observe over a period of 490 years.
Over-consumption and waste. Sins of pride, gluttony and covetousness. Too many mansions, Hummers, Beamers… destruction of croplands, disappearance of bees…pollution of rivers and streams…smog…fish dying…nuclear waste and nuclear contamination…corporations who pollute lands, rivers, and air in China, India…oil interests in the Middle East…
So what? Why does all of this matter? What difference does it make? Should we be concerned?
Well…God seems to think we should care. Here is what the 24 elders said in heaven:
…It is time "to destroy those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18).
This is what the "futurist" prophet, Isaiah says,
"The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left" (Isaiah, 24:5-6, NASB).
In other words, God will destroy polluters and destroyers of His earth!
Earth Dwellers Destroyed with Eco Judgments
Interestingly, the peoples who are judged in the near future are called "earth dwellers" (the rest of us have been evacuated off of the earth - see 1 Thess. 4:17). Many of the judgments which fall upon the "earth dwellers" who pollute the land, are eco judgments!
Bio&Eco Judgements Explained
The judgments are bio and eco events such as earthquakes, air pollution, unbearable heat, dead rivers and ocean life, asteroids, freaky hailstorms, drought, famines, cancerous sores and tumors, and pestilences. (See Revelation chapters 6-18).
These judgments are upon earth dwellers and the "merchants of the earth." Is it possible that those "merchants" are some of our current greedy, polluting globalist-corporations who are destroying natural environments worldwide?
Take a look at Revelation 18:3 to decide for yourself:
…"and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living."
Mankind's Original Dominion
In Genesis 1:28 God had blessed man and said,
"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
But, by the third chapter of Genesis, Satan had usurped man's dominion and is now the "ruler of this world" (John 14:30), the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2) who has "blinded the minds of unbelievers" (2 Cor. 4:4). The entire world is held captive by this evil one (1 John 5:19).
It stands to follow that because Satan holds the entire world captive those corporations and world citizens who rape the land, rob its poor, and destroy the earth and its awe-inspiring life forms will be judged along with Satan during the soon-to-come tribulation period.
Meanwhile, Christians are expected to love, care for, and enjoy what is left of our stewardship of the planet and its life forms. Stewardship is not an option. It is expected of us.
Parable of the Talents
Our earth is like Jesus' parable of the talents.
To one steward Yeshua "gave five talents. To another he gave two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability" (Matt. 25:15). With those talents, no matter how little or how much, we are to care for those things the Lord has entrusted to us - money, possessions, land, natural abilities and gifts, and the earth and its creatures. We are to treat all that the Lord has given us, with respect and thanksgiving.
Then we will hear our Master say to us someday soon:
"Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things: enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23).
What is our Future Stewardship?
What are these things over which we will be put in charge? What will He entrust to us in the future? What can we look forward to?
I believe Scripture tells us we can look forward to the Lord giving us stewardship over a renewed earth with rivers and animal life, a new glorious city, and a renewed universe. See Revelation 21 and 22, Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, and Psalms 148 and 150, for example.
The book of Isaiah contains many references to a restored earth during the Millennial Kingdom such as this:
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together, and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9, ESV).
Someday soon nature, the eco system, and Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest will be turned upside down. The planet will be restored to its original grace and beauty.
It stands to reason that those who belong to Satan treat the earth with disdain and disregard, rape the land for money, and view men as nothing but "useless eaters," similar to Hitler's treatment of the Jews during the holocaust.
Some toy manufacturers even try to create carefree "fake" pets for senior adult owners. These artificial-intelligence animals eat, "coo," bark and purr. But, nothing takes the place of God's wonderful, responsive creatures - your little dog, my furry cat, or the hundreds of precious life forms created for man's enjoyment.
Yet, this is the world's point of view - to rid the planet of biological life. And this is clearly Satan's worldview.
Those who belong to God, however, treat all living things as precious life-forms created by a wise, fun-loving designer (with a sense of humor - look at the duck-billed platypus and the giraffe, for instance).
Future Freedom from Death&Decay
Believers understand that death and the decaying process are temporary afflictions upon the planet and its creatures. "All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…" (Ro. 8:18-23, NLT).
Noah's Ark a Picture of Redemption
The rescue of mankind and earth's animals in Noah's Ark is a picture of redemption. The rescue of the ark's animals also anticipates their restoration in the future kingdom.
A Covenant of Restoration
In fact, God made a "covenant of restoration" with all creatures:
"In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely" (Hosea 2:18-19).
The context of this passage in the Bible speaks of God declaring that He will restore and claim His people. The fact that animals have a part in this covenant is most compelling! It is one of the most hopeful passages in Scripture telling of God's loving kindness and mercy.
Let all breathing Creatures Praise the Lord!
The believer knows that ultimately everything alive will shout, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!" (Ps. 150:6).
"Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted. His splendor is above the earth and the heavens" (Psalm 148:10-13).
Praise the Lord!
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
Branch, Craig. Stewardship of the earth. Available from: http://arcapologetics. org.
De Graaf, John, David Wann, and Thomas Naylor. 2005. Affluenza: The all-consuming epidemic. (A PBS television series and book). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Hitchcock, Mark. 2005. 55 Answers to questions about life after death. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Silvius, John. Christian stewardship of the environment. Available from: http://creationism.org.
Simon, Arthur. 2003. How much is enough? Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.