Record temperatures and fierce storms always seem to focus attention on the theory of manmade global warming or climate change. Is the earth’s average temperature rising? Are diesel engines and factory emissions heating up our planet? Or do temperature fluctuations result from normal climactic cycles? And are environmentalists using climate change as an excuse to raise taxes, create new bureaucracies, and seize political power?
For thoughtful Christians, how to treat the environment is a worthy question. Some people think that God has given men absolute rule over the earth. Man has the right, for example, to dump poisonous chemicals into the river and kill all the fish. After all, the Bible says, “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Others hold to a preservation view. Man may admire the beauty of the earth but must never cut down a tree or pave a parking lot – unless, of course, the beneficiary of these transgressions against Mother Nature is an environmentalist.
The conservation view, which seems most compatible with the Scriptures, strikes a healthy balance between these two extreme positions. Conservation means using the earth’s resources but never wasting them. When Israel invaded Canaan, besieging fortified cities was essential to conquest. However, the Lord prohibited the use of fruit tree logs for the construction of siegeworks (Deut. 20:20). Using timber for military purposes was permitted, but the destruction of fruit trees would have meant a mindless waste of life-sustaining resources.
By the Sea of Galilee, Jesus multiplied five barley loaves and two small fish. He fed 5,000 men and the women and children accompanying them. After the meal the Lord told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12, NIV).