Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Rather than giving human beings rights over nature, these verses give us the responsibility to care for nature in a way that is consistent with God’s will.
Romans 8:21 says that Creation will be liberated, showing that God has a plan for it.
Revelation 11:18 says that those who destroy the earth will themselves be destroyed, revealing that God does not like people to damage the earth.
An insight into God’s attitudes towards the environment can also be found in Leviticus 25:2-5:
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, “When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD.
Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD.
You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.”
Later on in Leviticus, God says the land must not be sold permanently because it belongs to him.
The Year of Jubilee (which happened every 50 years and involved special land regulations) contained a commandment that all people can return to the land that was owned by their ancestors (Leviticus 25:13).
Leviticus 25 reveals a God who wants the land to be looked after and for all people to have access to the earth’s resources.
As such, it is a good biblical example of why Christians should care about environmental rights.
Furthermore, it is consistent with many other passages of the bible that display the same attitude.
If there’s one command that’s caused people to get in a tizzy, it’s this one. What does it mean to have dominion? Are we still called to do this? And, especially given that we’re living in a fallen world, how do we exercise dominion in a way that honours God?
When God placed the first man in the garden of Eden, it was to “work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam was commanded to take care of the earth, to fill and cultivate the rest of it following after the example God had given him in the garden.
The dominion is all about how we treat the environment. It involves how we interact with the world around us, but it’s more than that.
Dominion touches every part of our being. And despite our fallen state, God has not removed the charge to rule over the earth from humanity.
Therefore, we must consider how to use the authority God has given us to bring Him glory. Here are three suggestions loosely based on Genesis 1:28:
3.1 Consume responsibly: Don’t buy or consume more than you need. Buy things that last. Just because you can be conspicuous in your consumption doesn’t mean you should be.
3.2 Work with excellence: While few of us are in positions of great authority, we are all responsible for carrying out the work we’ve been given with excellence.
Do your work well, respect your employers, remembering that “you are serving the Lord Jesus Christ,” not men (Colossians 3:24).
3.3 Multiply spiritually and biologically: Some of you might cringe reading that, but looking at the context of God’s command to have dominion over the earth, it’s connected to our multiplying and filling the earth.
While having children isn’t necessarily a mandate in the same way it was for Adam and Eve, having children is a way in which we can exercise dominion over the earth. We are bringing new life into the world. That’s a big deal.
Likewise, perhaps even more importantly, we need to be focused on spiritual multiplication. God has not removed this responsibility from us, so let’s make use of every opportunity we have to give Him glory.