We’ve all seen the headlines: “The Australian Fires are a Prelude to our Climate Suffering”; “Climate crisis: January 2020 was warmest since records began”; “The Arctic’s thawing permafrost is releasing a shocking amount of dangerous gases.” These headlines stir fear, anxiety, and even panic within readers. As believers who understand that we are stewards of God’s creation, should we be panicking about climate change?
God’s Word is always our starting point. We need to look to Scripture and line our emotions up with the Word of God.
God’s Word is always our starting point. We need to look to Scripture and line our emotions up with the Word of God. So, should we be filled with fear, a dread of the future, and anxiety? For a Christian who knows God’s Word, the answer to that question should be easy—No! Regardless of real or perceived circumstances, we should never be characterized by fear, dread, or anxiety. Here are four biblical reasons why:
God is ultimately in control. Scripture is clear that God is sovereign over everything (Psalm 115:3), including the weather (e.g., Psalm 148:8). We certainly can impact the environment, and we do, but we are not the “be-all and end-all” of what happens here on earth; God is, and his plan will triumph. And he has revealed the end—and life on earth won’t end by man-made climate change! It’ll end when God judges the earth with fire and creates new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:1–13).
But, a word of caution is needed here. Many Christians take a cavalier attitude toward the environment because of the biblical truth that God is in control. They shrug their shoulders and say it doesn’t matter what we do to earth because God is in control. But throughout Scripture, we see the balance of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty. They aren’t mutually exclusive; they go together. Despite God’s ultimate sovereignty, we have an obligation—given to us by our Creator in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28) and never revoked—to have dominion over God’s creation as his stewards, made in his image.
God cares for what he has made. That is clear throughout Scripture (Genesis 1:31; Psalm 104). As those made in his image and tasked with tending what he has made, we should show equal care for all God’s creatures, no matter how humble, small, or seemingly unnecessary. Our responsibility can be summed up this way: we care for creation for our good and God’s glory. God is glorified when we show the same care for and delight in his creation as he does.
The Bible commands us not to be afraid over 365 times—more than for each day of the year. If God told us something that many times, it behooves us to pay attention!
God has commanded us not to be afraid. It’s been pointed out before by many others that the Bible commands us not to be afraid over 365 times—more than for each day of the year. If God told us something that many times, it behooves us to pay attention!
News headlines are filled with reasons to fear—rumors of war, reports of natural disasters, fears of global pandemics, uncontrollable climate change leading to millions of desperate climate refugees, and more. God knew we would have many reasons to fear, just as the original audience reading the writings of Scripture did. Yet he still commands us to “fear not.” Why? Well, because he’s in control!
Another reason we should “fear not” should be obvious. We live in a day of “fake news,” click-bait headlines, and politically driven decisions that the media is more than happy to present as the only option to stave off the impending doomsday. Things are not always as they appear, and there’s a great deal of interpretation that goes into the science of climate change (hence why models are, more often than not, simply wrong). So, we should always exercise caution when the media begs us to panic and feel hopeless.
God has promised that the seasons will continue. After the flood, God made a promise to Noah and his descendants (which includes all of us as well!). We read,
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Genesis 8:22).
God has promised that we will continue to have seasons and that we will continue to be able to grow food. Will climate change? Absolutely. It has in the past, and it will change in the future. That may close off some areas to agriculture but may open up new areas we currently cannot use. But even as the climate changes, we can know the predictable seasons will continue, even if they don’t look quite how they looked to previous generations living in a particular area.
Our primary focus should always be on people. Genesis 1:27 tells us that humans alone are made in God’s image. We hold a unique status that no other creature holds. That’s why Jesus said,
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29–31).
Notice that sparrows are not unimportant to the Father—not one falls to the ground apart from God’s divine sovereignty. God’s creation matters to him, but we are of far more value than sparrows in God’s eyes. So, we should always have a “humans first” approach to environmental issues.
Well, many of the radical policies being suggested by alarmists will have detrimental effects on the poor.
How does this impact how we view climate change? Well, many of the radical policies being suggested by alarmists will have detrimental effects on the poor. For example, one of the best ways to lift nations out of poverty is to provide access to inexpensive energy. But with the global push for only renewable (and therefore expensive and often unreliable) energy, developing nations will have a harder time to advance, and poor populations are likely to remain in poverty. That is one of the challenges we need to consider as we wrestle with the issue of climate change thoroughly.
Again, this does not mean we just wantonly destroy God’s creation for our use or commercial benefit. But consider this: Individuals who are barely getting by won’t likely be focused on the environment or the impact of their actions (e.g., burning down sections of rainforest, polluting rivers with garbage, etc.). Their main focus, and understandably so, will be where their next meal is going to come from. This is not to say that there is no one living at the sustenance level who cares for the environment (thankfully, there are) or that all developed nations do a good job of exercising stewardship (they certainly don’t always).
It’s a complex issue. But, it does remind us that if we want to encourage others to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us, that includes obeying another command from God to us—caring for the poor and needy. That includes not enacting policies that may be perceived as good for the environment, but that will have negative consequences on the poor. Instead, we put the poor first, and a likely result of such policies would be that, once basic needs are met, those individuals will be more able to turn their attention to being good stewards of creation. When we keep things in a biblical balance—people first, creation second—increasingly better stewardship should follow.
That’s why the ultimate answer to environmental issues isn’t more laws, bigger fines, or more power to the government. The answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Of course, we must also always keep in mind that we are all fallen sinners, and selfishness, greed, and apathy will always impact how well we fulfill the Creator’s mandate. That’s why the ultimate answer to environmental issues isn’t more laws, bigger fines, or more power to the government. The answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ! As people turn to him for salvation, they become new and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, put to death sin and walk in a way that pleases the Lord, and that includes how they treat his creation.
So, before you head for the hills to live completely off the grid in an effort to save the planet, consider what God’s Word says and the promises God has made. Do what you can to be a good steward, help the poor and needy and support policies that will protect them, and, above all, preach the good news of the gospel.
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