THE SPIRIT OF SACRIFICE AND COMMITMENT
Seventh-day Adventists believe the earth, including the nonliving environment, has special status because it is divinely created. The entrance of sin negatively affects the earth (Gen 3:14-19). Paul reminds us that as a result of sin the “whole creation”—which would include the earth, the water, the air, animals and the entire material world—is “groaning” (Rom 8:22). At the same time, Scripture presents an impressive doctrine of life. The first four days of creation God describes as “good.” On the fifth day the Creator pronounces a blessing on the new creatures of the air and water, commanding them, as He will land animals and humans on day six, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:22). This implies divine valuation of all life.
On the fifth day the Creator pronounces a blessing on the new creatures of the air and water, commanding them, as He will land animals and humans on day six, to “be fruitful and multiply”
Later, Noah is told by God to take his family and animals into the ark to keep them alive during a global catastrophe (Gen. 7:3). The turning point in the flood narrative comes in Genesis 8:1 where we are told, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark.” After the flood, the animals are explicitly included in God’s covenant. Four times God links Noah with all the creatures in this covenant (Gen. 9:9-10, 12, 15, 17). Later He announces a similar covenant through Hosea (Hos. 2: 18-20), and exhorts Israel that one of the dire consequences of their gross sinfulness will be severe harm to the ecosystems (Hos. 4:1-3).
Respect for animals is found in the Pentateuch where it is pointed out that both animals and humans were created with the “breath of life” (Gen. 1:20, 24; 2:7, 19); God blessed them all (Gen. 1:22, 28) and both humans and animals were given a violence-free diet (Gen. 1:29-30). In Job we find a magnificent 4-chapter address (Job 38-41) urging Job to contemplate several wild creatures. In Numbers 22:21-23 a heavenly being which Balaam does not at first see, criticizes Balaam’s harshness toward his donkey. The book of Jonah ends with God’s great mercy, which includes the animals along with wicked Ninevites, underscoring how the animal kingdom is included in God’s tender regard. Many other examples of God’s care for the earth can be found in the Old Testament.
This same “theology of life” is found in the New Testament. Jesus’ own affection for animals is demonstrated repeatedly with mention made that even the lowliest creatures are loved by God: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6). And the Architect of two lavish Old Testament sanctuaries marvels at the astonishing beauty of the flowers He created: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:28-29). Moreover, Jesus restores health to crippled limbs and damaged bodies as a “preview” of the perfect world He promises where sin, sickness and death will be removed.
In the final book of Scripture, the twenty-four elders cry out against those who have wrecked havoc on creation, recognizing that judgment has come for “those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18). The Apocalypse concludes with resplendent restoration, for redemption involves the renewal of the original creation including the material world. Salvation is never described as escaping from the earth, but rather reclaiming it. Throughout Scripture we are never allowed to forget the profound value of this world.
A Christian Response
All this suggests that authentic Christian faith must include creation care. Since God is the Creator and Sustainer of this world, and we are created in His image, we are to be His image-bearers. Surely this includes loving concern for all of God’s creation. There is more to good stewardship than returning tithe!