Part two of a series on reasons to care for creation.
Psalm 8 tells us that we have been made rulers over the works of His hands.
And in the context of Genesis 1, God’s first command to human beings was not to dominate life on earth, as some have mistakenly argued, but to have dominion, that is to rule over creation as God’s representatives on earth.
Note the ordering of things in Genesis – God’s makes the world and the garden (that is the environment), he then places people in the world and the garden (that is society) and then he asks them to interact with it (that is the economy). At times it seems that the latter takes precedence over both people and planet.
In fact, ecology and economy share a common root word in Greek: ‘oikos‘, meaning home or house. Creation care is therefore good housekeeping and it’s good economics. But if we continue in Genesis we can see that God gives us the right perspective on responsibility too.
In his article on humanity’s relationship with God and creation, Walter McConnell quotes Hamilton, stating that in Genesis 2:15 the Hebrew words for ‘work’ and ‘care for’ mean ‘to serve’ and ‘to exercise great care over’ respectively. Therefore, as Hamilton concludes, “man is placed in the garden as servant. He is there not to be served but to serve…The garden is something to be protected more than it is something to be possessed.”
Elsewhere in the Old Testament, God commands the Israelites to rest the land every number of years, to leave some of their crops for the poor and for wildlife, and to show concern for the welfare of livestock.
So on this planet that is our home, and in the light of Israel’s concept of Kingship, McConnell argues that with our identity as royal children of the King of Kings, made in His image, comes royal responsibility for what is His.
God original commandment – to humbly and sensitively exercise our duty of care to the rest of God’s creation, to serve and not to dominate – still stands today. It’s a royal commandment, not a royal request. And to draw upon McConnell’s article a third and final time, he quotes Bruggemann:
A Christian understanding of dominion must be discerned in the way of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Mark 10:43-44). The one who rules is the one who serves. Lordship means servanthood. It is the task of the shepherd not to control but to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). The human person is ordained over the remainder of creation but for its profit, well-being, and enhancement. The role of the human person is to see to it that the creation becomes fully the creation willed by God.
What a responsibility!
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
This is an edited extract from the Christians in Science Ireland ‘God and Science Lecture’, given on the 30th April 2012 at University Road Moravian Church, Belfast.