13 The Ecological Word of God - Shawna Nemesia Rebello

posted May 30, 2018, 10:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 30, 2018, 10:46 AM ]
World Environment Day is a good occasion to look at what the Bible tells us about caring for Creation and living sustainably. Let's sequentially go through a few verses from the Word of God itself.

Creation is the beginning and foundation of all God's work (cf. Genesis 1:1) and its goodness is emphasised in Genesis 1:31: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." Then God issues one of His very first directives to humankind to work and keep the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 2:15). After the fall due to original sin, it is our wickedness that causes God immense regret, indeed to the point of destroying the earth by a flood. Genesis 6:6-7 reads: And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."

But God is love and also the very first conservationist, which is why Noah's family, along with two of every living thing of all flesh were preserved by God (cf. Genesis 6:19) to perpetuate life on the earth. God isn't just satisfied with preserving life, but goes a step further by establishing His first covenant – an everlasting one – between the divine and the mortal. This is iterated in Genesis 9:15 - "I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh."

The rest of the Pentateuch is sprinkled with laws which serve to prevent the abuse of nature. In Exodus 23:10-11, God says, "For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year, you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard." Here, God's concern for soil fertility, the downtrodden and domestic animals is clear. There is a categorical assertion in Leviticus 25:23-24 of the earth as belonging to God, and that we humans have a limited authority over it – "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine... And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land." In Numbers 35:33, though the caution is against bloodshed, the fact that God cares for the land is unequivocal: "You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land…"

Trees, that use the primary greenhouse gas - carbon dioxide, which we are now emitting in excess - to produce breath-sustaining oxygen, are not out of the ambit of God's concern. In Deuteronomy 20:19, God orders, "When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you?" God's care for His Creation is again clear in Deuteronomy 22:6, where it is forbidden to take a bird together with its young – "If you come across a bird's nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young." The mother bird must remain free to give rise to more offspring.