Happy Father's Day (belated) to all the Dads out there. It is a high calling indeed, and few titles are as noble as "Daddy."
And now, back to your regularly scheduled series on the environment, already in progress. (For a review of where we've been, see Friday's post.)
So if caring for the environment is something we should do (especially since God cares for it), and since we have been placed as stewards within creation so that we can act on that environmental concern, how do we apply our "Biblical environmentalism" in our daily lives?
Well, first...the Bible doesn't give any "thou shalts" in regard to caring for the environment, so we're going to have to go on principles. The OT does contain some agricultural rules that should serve as a good starting point. God ordained that even the earth should receive a sabbath rest. It seems, then, that part of our stewardship should be to avoid taxing the earth, or overworking it. Likewise, we should take care to avoid destroying anything needlessly. There are times when cutting trees, or harvesting plants is necessary. When it's not, it seems reasonable that we should leave the green (or whatever color the plant happens to be) stuff alone to grow. This goes for any natural resource, too. It's certainly not unreasonable to seek ways to minimize overharvesting of resources by taking advantage of recycling/reuse opportunities, or taking a little extra time to seek out businesses that are resource friendly.
When it comes to animals, God shows even more concern. There are guidelines about not killing an adult animal with its young, or a mother bird with her young. This allows for continuation of the species. Is eating meat a sin? No, of course not (Jesus would not have caught and cooked fish if it were. And a few places in the NT give the okay to eating animals.) However, we should be careful here, too, to avoid over-harvesting animals for meat. Beyond even that, we should certainly be humane in our treatment of animals, keeping them well-fed and sheltered when in our care.
And finally, we should be aware of our choices, and the impacts they have on the environment. When we choose to use chemicals, are we careful to understand the impacts? When we make transportation choices, are we taking into consideration what contribution we'll be making to air quality? When we purchase appliances, do we think about energy use? If we are to love our neighbors we need to take care that our decisions do not treat our neighbors in an unloving way by polluting their space, or creating health hazards to them.
These are fairly straightforward points. I don't think we need to, or are Biblically commanded to, become extremists. And I'm certainly not calling someone who buys an SUV a sinner, or a vegan more righteous than a carnivore. Many of our environment-impacting decisions are situation dependent - some people need the utility of a pickup truck, and I won't judge them for that. However, I do believe it's not too much to ask that we think about the way in which we affect the environment around us. Dismissing our actions is bad stewardship. We need to be informed about best practices in environmental care, and we need to include concern for the earth and atmosphere in our decisions. Treat animals kindly, and be careful when using chemicals. Insofar as it doesn't intrude on other priorities God has set before you, take the time to learn about ways to enjoy nature and how to properly conserve it.
This doesn't mean we need to take things too far, though, and that's a danger I'll talk about tomorrow (God willing.) Nothing I've mentioned so far is outrageous, or proscriptive. But there are some who desire to go that little bit further than is wise. That's the next topic in the series.