When a belief system becomes dominant in an individual’s life, it virtually becomes a religion. When it does, we often add the suffix “ism” to the chief word defining it. Many people are so given over to communism, scientism, conservatism, liberalism, or materialism that these worldviews become virtual worship systems to them. Because such philosophies come to rule an individual’s behavior, debate over them strongly affects the emotions of both believers and unbelievers alike. Environmentalism is another of those belief systems. It is an emotionally charged word that evokes images from the sixties of radical activists storming the fences of nuclear power plants or chaining themselves to trees about to be cut. It paints mental pictures of people worshiping nature. Without question, thousands of environmental activists really have no greater object of worship than the natural world. The cosmos is their god because it’s the greatest thing they know.
Christians, of course, don’t want to be associated with nature worship, so we don’t want to be characterized as “environmentalists.” However, the difference between environmentalism and true stewardship of God’s handiwork – good earth-keeping – is extreme. Some environmentalism does indeed tend toward worship of the creation. Biblical earth-keeping (caring for creation in accord with the Holy Scriptures), however, is centered on a personal relationship with, and worship of, the Creator. As a part of our worship we respect and care for the creation that comes from God’s awesome power and gracious providence. Caring for creation is one of the major responsibilities given by God to His people1 (Genesis 2:15). And there is no good reason we can’t combine that responsibility with all the other responsibilities we have: caring for our children, caring for our neighbor, caring for the lost, and the like—all the while, taking great pains not to make the objects of our care the objects of our worship (Romans 1:21-25).
- The two Hebrew words in Genesis 2:15 used in reference to caring for the creation are rendered in the King James Version as “dress” and “keep.” In modern English, these words have lost the rich meanings known in the days of King James. In Hebrew they are “abad” and “shamar.” The definitions of these words according to James Strong’s concordance include the following understandings: abad = to work, to serve, to till, to keep in bondage, to be husbandman over; shamar = to hedge about, to guard, to protect, to attend to, to be circumspect, to take, to mark, look narrowly upon, to observe, to preserve, to regard, to reserve, to save, to wait for, to watch over (as a watchman). “Shamar” is used in the familiar Aaronic blessing: Numbers 6:24 “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (KJV). Adam was apparently expected to care for the earth as the Lord cares for it and for us.Back To Article