GOD'S STEWARDS OF THE EARTH
When God created the first humans, He gave them three responsibilities that relate to care for the earth (Gen. 1:28, NKJV). The first of these was to fill the earth. The second was to subdue (kabash, to subdue) the earth, and the third was to have dominion (radah, to rule) over the other creatures. Adam was placed in Eden in order to tend (abad, serve) and keep (shamar, to observe) it (Gen. 2:15). These commands show that God is interested in the proper care and treatment of our world and its creatures.
Our care for the environment is motivated by the knowledge that the God we love and serve intentionally created this marvellous world, with all its beauty and diversity, and that He values it. We regard the creation as a blessing, but not sacred. We see it as blemished, but not evil."
The First Rule
Notice that the commands to care for the environment were given before any command regarding the payment of tithes and offerings, observing the Sabbath, or caring for our health. Perhaps this is because we will not be able to do any of the other things if we do not care for our environment. After all, our ability to earn income, rest, worship, and care for our health all require a healthy environment.
Humans have pretty much filled the earth. With a population of some seven billion people, it is increasingly difficult to find attractive, healthful living spaces for additional people. Part of this is because we have not wisely pursued the other responsibilities given us at creation: to subdue, have dominion over, as well as to tend and keep the garden.
The commands to “subdue” and “have dominion” have the connotation of kingship. Humans are appointed to rule the world. The tools that enable us to do that are incorporated into the image of God, given to us at the creation. The image of God has many facets, which include such abilities as a sense of right and wrong, the ability to think creatively, to plan ahead, and to work in cooperation to accomplish complex objectives. These features enable us to rule the other creatures and manage the environment wisely.
Rulership and Responsibility
Wise management of the environment often requires a balancing of competing interests and a responsible prioritization of goals. As good rulers, we must consider the needs of all parties that use the environment, including the other living organisms. The terms “subdue” and “dominion” signify rulership and responsibility. They do not provide a license for brutality and abuse. Humans are to rule the other creatures with authority and compassion, both of which are divine attributes. We who are created in God’s image are charged with managing the world as rulers appointed by the Creator. If we act as good rulers, we shall receive the reward granted to good managers. If we act as bad rulers, ruling with greed, intimidation and violence, we shall receive the condemnation that bad rulers deserve.
Our care for the environment is motivated by the knowledge that the God we love and serve intentionally created this marvellous world, with all its beauty and diversity, and that He values it. We regard the creation as a blessing, but not sacred. We see it as blemished, but not evil. We recognize that the presence of sin in the world means that we have to deal with situations that would not exist in a perfect world, and we must sometimes use our judgment to choose among alternatives of which none are ideal. Nevertheless, we strive to reduce suffering, among all creatures. We preserve diversity, even when doing so may cause us inconvenience. We value a simple lifestyle that reduces consumption and waste, even though we may do without some of the luxuries available to us. We do this, not out of fear or greed of reward, but from a sense of gratitude to the Creator who made us in His image and commissioned us to manage the world as He would.
Size: Head and body, 11 to 13.75 ft (3.4 to 4.2 m); tail, 20 to 27.5 in (50 to 70 cm)
Weight: 3,168 to 7,920 lbs (1,440 - 3,600 kg)
Protection status: Endangered