At each stage of creation in Genesis 1, God likes what he has created. He declares that the world is good. When it’s all done, he declares that the creation is very good.
And then something goes very wrong.
First the humans decide that they don’t want to be what God created them to be—humans. They want to be like gods. Well, that’s understandable. Who doesn’t? Specifically, they want to be the ones to decide what is Right and what is Wrong. But that’s above their pay grade. Humans aren’t very good at it. Humans can’t see the big picture. Most of the time, they aren’t looking for what is Right or Wrong, but what is right or wrong for them—that is, what most benefits them vs. what would most get in the way of what most benefits them.
It gets worse. Then humans decide it is their prerogative to determine who gets to live and who gets to die. Once again, that’s way above their ability to judge, and generally it’s decided on a self-centered set of criteria. But violence enters the world and humans begin to use it indiscriminately, to the point where God sees that their hearts are “evil all the day.” So, in a great act of violence and genocide God wipes out all but a few of the humans, and decides to start over. Problem is, when it’s all said and done, the violence didn’t work. At the end of the flood narrative, God swears off the use of violence as a means of achieving a peaceful world, because nothing has changed. Even starting over with the one righteous man, God sees that the heart of the human is still evil all the day. And as if to prove the point, one night Noah gets drunk and passes out naked, and wakes up and curses his own son who had the temerity to tell his brothers, “Hey, Dad’s drunk and passed out naked in his tent.” I guess you’re not supposed to talk that way about your own dad, especially when he’s the only righteous man on earth. Don’t point out the problem, cover it up, which is what his brothers do. And it works; they aren’t cursed.
Finally, the humans decide that the earth, which was very good in God’s eyes, wasn’t good enough for them, and they try to build a tower that they can climb to go live where God lives. God destroys the tower and scatters them across the earth. It’s not like God doesn’t want to live with the humans; he does. It’s just that he wants the humans to be content being human, and to be content living on the earth, which, after all, he made for specifically for them.
I don’t know what happened to our theology, but some aspects of it have us repeating the fallacious human thinking reflected in Genesis 1-11. It says that the earth is bad and that heaven is good, so we should just endure our time on earth and use it to make sure we get to heaven, which is where the really good stuff happens. This is actually more in line with Gnostic thinking than anything reflected in Scripture. There’s also a healthy dose of Platonism reflected in that kind of theology. (I’m not going to take the time to define these things right now; there’s not enough space and you can Google the terms and see for yourself what I’m talking about.)
Care for the earth is a part of Biblical theology, but somehow it doesn’t find its way into most of our current theology. If we are going to be Biblical Christians, indeed if we are going to get our lives in line with the purposes and plans of God, we must recover it. And please don’t hear me making a political statement; this is a Biblical statement, a theological statement—and a human statement. God made the world inhabitable for humans; we’ve made parts of it virtually uninhabitable (though there are humans living in these areas, if you can call it living.) It’s our responsibility to fix it.
Care for the poor must include care for the planet; the two cannot and should not be separated from each other. Both are Biblical mandates that Christians need to take seriously.
I started with the opening chapters of the Bible, so I’ll end with the last chapters, which is a vision of a renewed creation, and of God making His dwelling place with humans on earth. So we need to take care of the planet if for no other reason than that God has decided to live here.
And you always clean up when company comes.