While on vacation, my husband and I walked along the beach. We noticed a large square patch of sand blocked off by a makeshift fence. A young man explained that he worked around the clock with a team of volunteers committed to guarding the eggs in each sea turtle’s nest. Once the hatchlings emerged from their nest, the presence of both animals and humans threaten and decrease their chance of survival. “Even with all our efforts,” he said, “scientists estimate that only one out of every five thousand hatchlings reach adulthood.” These bleak numbers didn’t discourage this young man, however. His passion for selflessly serving the hatchlings deepened my desire for respecting and protecting sea turtles. Now I wear a sea turtle pendant that reminds me of my God-given responsibility to care for the creatures He’s made.
When God created the world, He provided a habitat for each creature to thrive and live in interdependently (Genesis 1:20–25). When He created His image-bearers, God intended for us to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (v. 26). He helps us serve Him as responsible stewards who use our God-given authority to care for His vast creation.
Earth Day is an annual event observed on April 22. In recent years, more than one billion people in about two hundred countries have taken part in educational and service activities. Each year, Earth Day is a reminder of the importance of caring for our amazing planet. But the mandate to care for the environment is far older than this…
A friend and I recently visited a favorite walking spot of mine. Climbing a windswept hill, we crossed a field of wildflowers into a forest of towering pines, then descended into a valley where we paused a moment. Clouds floated softly above us. A stream trickled nearby. The only sounds were birdsongs. Jason and I stood there silently for fifteen minutes, taking it all in.
As it turns out, our actions that day were deeply therapeutic. According to research from the University of Derby, people who stop to contemplate nature experience higher levels of happiness, lower levels of anxiety, and a greater desire to care for the earth. Walking through the forest isn’t enough, though. You have to watch the clouds, listen to the birds. The key isn’t being in nature, but noticing it.
Could there be a spiritual reason for nature’s benefits? Paul said that creation reveals God’s power and nature (Romans 1:20). God told Job to look at the sea, sky, and stars for evidence of His presence (Job 38–39). Jesus said that contemplating the “birds of the air” and “flowers of the field” could reveal God’s care and reduce anxiety (Matthew 6:25–30). In Scripture, noticing nature is a spiritual practice.
Scientists wonder why nature affects us so positively. Maybe one reason is that by noticing nature we catch a glimpse of the God who created it and who notices us.
“Dad, why do you have to go to work?” The question from my young daughter was motivated by her desire to play with me. I would have preferred to skip work and spend time with her, but there was a growing list of things at work that required my attention. The question, nevertheless, is a good one. Why do we work? Is it simply to provide for ourselves and for the people we love? What about labor that’s unpaid—why do we do that?
Genesis 2 tells us that God placed the first human in the garden to “work it and take care of it” (v. 15). My father-in-law is a farmer, and he often tells me that he farms for the sheer love of land and livestock. That’s beautiful, but it leaves lingering questions for those who don’t love their work. Why did God put us in a particular place with a particular assignment?
Genesis 1 gives us the answer. We’re made in God’s image to carefully steward the world He made. Pagan stories of the way the world began reveal “gods” making humans to be their slaves. Genesis declares that the one true God made humans to be His representatives— to steward what He’d made on His behalf . May we reflect His wise and loving order into the world. Work is a call to cultivate God’s world for His glory.
When I remember my dad, I picture him best outdoors hammering or gardening or downstairs working in his cluttered workroom, stuffed with fascinating tools and gadgets. His hands were always busy at a task or project—sometimes building (a garage or a deck or a birdhouse), sometimes locksmithing, and sometimes designing jewelry and stained-glass art.
Remembering my dad prompts me to think of my heavenly Father and Creator, who has always been busy at work. In the beginning, “[God] laid the earth’s foundations . . . [and] marked off its dimensions . . . while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:4–7). Everything He created was a work of art, a masterpiece. He designed a breathtakingly beautiful world and pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
That includes you and me. God designed us in intimate and intricate detail (Psalm 139:13–16); and He entrusted us with and instilled in us (His image bearers) the goal and desire to work, which includes ruling and caring for the earth and its creatures (Genesis 1:26–28; 2:15). No matter the work we do—in our job or in our leisure—God empowers and gives us what we need to work wholeheartedly for Him.
In everything we do, may we do it to please Him.
The “big browns” are spawning in the Owyhee River—brown trout beginning their fall nesting ritual. You can see them excavating their nests in the gravelly shallows.
Wise fishermen know that fish are spawning and try not to disturb them. They avoid walking on gravel bars where they might trample the eggs, or wading upstream from the nests where they might dislodge debris that can smother them. And they don’t fish for these trout, though it’s tempting to do so as they rest near their nests.
These precautions are part of an ethic that governs responsible fishing. But there is a deeper and a better cause.
The Scriptures stress the fact that God has given us the earth (Gen. 1:28–30). It is ours to use, but, as the old angler Izaak Walton put it, “We must use it as those who love it.”
I muse on the work of God’s hands: a partridge calling across a canyon, a bull elk bugling up a fight, a herd of antelope far off in the distance, a brook trout and its kaleidoscopic rose moles, a mother otter playing in a stream with her pups—I love all these things, for they have been given to me for my delight, out of my Father’s great love.
And what I love, I protect.
June Williams was only 4 when her father bought 7 acres of land to build a zoo without bars or cages. Growing up she remembers how creative her father was in trying to help wild animals feel free in confinement. Today Chester Zoo is one of England’s most popular wildlife attractions. Home to 11,000 animals on 110 acres of land, the zoo reflects her father’s concern for animal welfare, education, and conservation.
Solomon had a similar interest in all creatures great and small. In addition to studying the wildlife of the Middle East, he imported exotic animals like apes and monkeys from far-off lands (1 Kings 10:22). But one of his proverbs shows us that Solomon’s knowledge of nature went beyond intellectual curiosity. When he expressed the spiritual implications of how we treat our animals, he mirrored something of the heart of our Creator: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. 12:10).
With God-given wisdom, Solomon saw that our relationship to our Creator affects not only how we treat people but also how much thoughtful consideration we give to the creatures in our care.
My 7-year-old African-American friend Tobias asked me a thought-provoking question the other day: “Since Adam and Eve were white, where did black people come from?” When I told him we don’t know what “color” they were and asked him why he thought they were white, he said that’s what he always saw in Bible-story books at church and in the library. My heart sank. I wondered if that might make him think he was inferior or possibly not even created by the Lord.