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Lesson 5: The Environment *

Introduction: The Bible in Romans 1:25 warns us against worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. Such worship, the Bible tells us, trades truth for a lie. On the other hand, the Bible tells us in Psalms 19:1 that the heavens declare the glory of God. How, then, should we react to our environment? Should we treat it as a trust from God? Should we consider it an idol? Should we say "It is all going to burn," and look forward to a new heaven and a new earth? Let's jump into our study of what the Bible says about the environment and find out more!

  1. First Assignment

    1. Read Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:15. What was the original work of Adam and Eve? (They were to "work" and "take care of" the garden. They were to "subdue" the earth and "rule" over the animals.)

      1. What does that suggest should be our attitude toward's God's creation? (Taking care of it is part of the original assignment for humans.)

      2. Imagine you are a teenager and your father gives you a new car and tells you to "work," "take care of," "subdue" and "rule" over your new car? How would you understand your relationship to the gift? (God's gift teaches us that we are superior to the creation and that it was created for us and not the other way around. But, God gives us the responsibility to care for the creation. In our parallel to the teenager, the car is to be kept under control and cared for.)

      3. As you contemplate the creation, do you think that Adam and Eve needed to work to have enough to eat? (Probably not.)

        1. If you are right, why did God ( Genesis 2:15) tell them to "work" and "take car of" the garden? (God's plan for us is to work. Idleness is not the plan. Their work was to aid the environment in which they found themselves.)

      4. Let's look again at the idea of ( Genesis 1:28) of ruling the creation. What does this suggest about the idea of worshiping the creation or putting the needs of the creation ahead of the needs of humans? (Humans are the superior beings, not the creation. Those who put the needs of animals above the needs of humans have the roles reversed.)

        1. Are the needs of humans and animals mutually exclusive?

    2. Read Genesis 3:17-19. Does sin change the relationship between humans and the creation? (Adam is still working the ground, but his work is much harder. The creation is no longer cooperating with him.)

  2. First Rest

    1. Read Genesis 2:1-3. We have the creation. We have the assignment to humans to work to take care of the creation. Now we have a rest. What does rest have to do with the environment? (Part of our personal environment is to rest. Rest commemorates the creation.)

      1. Why would God make this rest "holy?" (Something that is holy is set apart from the common. This teaches us that work to improve our environment is the common, but celebrating the Creator by taking a break from work is special and holy.)

        1. Does it matter which day God rested? (If the designated day is holy, and the rest of the days are common, then "yes," it makes a difference.)

  3. First Environmental Consideration

    1. Read Leviticus 18:1-5. How were God's people to live compared to the lifestyles of the Egyptians and the Canaanites? (They were to follow God's laws and not live a pagan lifestyle.)

      1. Leviticus 18:6-19 lists prohibited sexual relationships. Let's read Leviticus 18:20-23. What sins of today's popular culture are listed? (Adultery, abortion, homosexual relationships.)

        1. Why is having sex with an animal listed next to homosexual sex? (Our culture has deadened our sensitivity to the one sin, but not to the other. God views them both as sin.)

    2. Read Leviticus 18:24-25 and Leviticus 18:27-28. What "new" view of environmentalism is presented here? (One aspect of Christian environmentalism is that sexual sin defiles the environment.)

      1. How can that be true? What does sex have to do with the environment? (God is not talking about clean air and clean water. He is talking about clean lives. Just as Adam's sin (which logically has no relationship to the environment) resulted in an uncooperative environment, so our sins will cause the land to "vomit" us out.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 8:1-3. What caused God to predict, approvingly, digging up the bodies of kings, officials, priests, prophets and people, and leaving them out of the ground? (They worshiped the sun, moon, and stars, and consulted the position of these celestial objects to determine their behavior.)

      1. Does that sound familiar? (Horoscopes are created based on the positions of the sun, moon and planets. This astrology is directly condemned by the Bible.)

        1. Why? Isn't the study of the bodies of the universe important? (Read Romans 1:25. There is nothing wrong with studying the heavens or nature. Indeed, David tells us in Psalms 19:1 that they declare the glory of God. The problem comes in attributing importance to the creation rather than the Creator.)

      2. Can you be a true environmentalist without believing in God? (No. You are missing the main point. God created the heavens and the earth. If you don't understand this, you don't understand our environment. It is like someone who loves the Shelby Cobra automobile and does not know about the man Carroll Shelby. If you think that the Shelby Cobra was a chance event in an automotive junkyard, you don't understand the Shelby Cobra.)

    4. I was recently reading a book about Plato and a series of lectures on astronomy. Plato was convinced, as are scientists today, that "math" can explain most things. By that they mean there are rules by which the universe operates. What logically follows from such a premise? (First, that an Intelligence created us, we are not the product of random accidents. Second, if rules apply to everything else, why should they not apply to us? What is so surprising about a rule-driven universe vomiting out those participants who do not follow the rules?)

  4. Renters versus Owners

    1. Read Psalms 24:1-2. A popular environmental claim is that we are trustees of the environment for future generations of humans. Who does the Bible say owns the environment? (God.)

      1. At present, I have a home that I own about 200 miles from where I teach, and a second place that I rent which is close to the university. I know about being both an owner and a renter. What obligation does the renter have that an owner does not have? (I feel like I have to be careful not to harm the place I rent. On the other hand, I have a much greater personal interest in the home I own.)

        1. Is there an environmental lesson in the fact that God owns the earth and everything in it? (It provides a Biblical basis for the idea of humans being "trustees" of the earth. We are trustees not so much for our descendants (although that makes logical sense), as we are for God.)

    2. One of the blessings of being a renter is that I do not have to worry about the general maintenance of the building. Read Revelation 16:1-3 and Revelation 16:8-9. What is the Owner doing to the environment?

      1. Right now we have a scientific debate about whether "global warming" has anything do with the conduct of us "renters." There is clear historical evidence of prior periods of warming and cooling of the earth. One of the earliest maps in existence shows a shoreline at the polar cap! How should we react to the message that God will send "intense heat" that will "sear" people? (The Owner can do what He wants with His property. As a renter, I still have an obligation to try to avoid injuring the Owner's property.)

    3. Friend, God's original assignment to humans was to take care of the earth. Part of that assignment, however, is to live a life in accord with a rule-governed universe. Will you, right now, ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart to guide you into becoming an obedient and helpful steward of God's Kingdom?

  5. Next week: Faith and Healing.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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