Just the other day I was walking with my eight year old daughter through a rain drenched field and we came upon some carp that were trapped several hundred yards away from the river. My daughter enjoyed looking at these fish closely. Normally these fish are hiding in the muddy bottom of a river. But today they were sunbathing in a field. I know that these fish are only carp. By most people’s standards, they are called “trash fish.” Many lake associations will pay people a couple bucks for every carp he or she clears out of a lake. It doesn’t matter if they catch the carp with a rod and reel or a spear. The goal is to get the dirty carp out of the water where bass and bluegill can thrive. While I agree that carp can cause many problems in any aquatic ecosystem, seeing those carp trapped and knowing that they will die soon did not excite me. Looking at those carp dying raised up within me an emotion that realized how wrong creation has gone. When God created the carp, He created it to be good. God’s plan was not for the carp to rot out in the field on an 80 degree day.
So, what is God’s plan when it comes to His creation? How should we interact with God’s creation? Most Christians don’t know how to respond to these questions. There are probably several reasons why Christians don’t talk about the environment. One reason might be the emphasis on end times theology. Hey, if the world is going to burn up someday anyway, and Jesus is coming back soon to save us from this earth, then why take care of it? Another reason is the fear that we will appear to be liberal politically and that only tree huggers care about the planet and to care about the planet means that you are a fanatic. Or maybe it is just because people are indifferent and don’t really spend time thinking through the issues of the environment.
How should a Christian interact with the environment? In honor of the 8 carp who recently lost their lives, I want to give you 8 things to think about when it comes to the environment.
1. Enjoy all of the earth’s God given resources (Genesis 2:15; 9:1-16). God makes it very clear here that He has given us both animals and vegetation for our purposes. We are allowed to eat meat and vegetables. God makes this clear. Humans have also tried to use some of the things that God has given to us. More than 40% of the medicines we use are derived from plants. Amazingly, only about 2% of flowering plant species have so far been examined for possible medicinal uses. This shows us the remarkable resources God has given to us. We have been on this planet for thousands of years, and yet we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what God has placed into the creation. God also tells us to enjoy these things that He has made. These things are for us. Just think about some of the things that God has given to us for a moment. What is pleasing to your eyes? What delights your senses? Walking barefoot in lush, green grass? Hearing the crashing of waves and the feel of salty air on your face? Watching wind-driven snowflakes come to rest clinging to bare branches? Or when you see the first robin of spring? If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that it is holy and sacred. We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, every leaf that fades. When is the last time you have been so overwhelmed by something in God’s world that you feel like worshipping God (Nehemiah 9:6)?
2. Do your part to conserve wildlife. In Deuteronomy 22:6, we are told that it is okay to take eggs or the young birds for food, but that we shouldn’t take the mom also. We should leave something behind so that we don’t use up everything. There are two extremes when it comes to wildlife. There are those who believe that animals should never be hunted or even killed for that matter because they put too much value on that life and there are those who kill just for the fun of it and do not take into consideration that they are taking away a life. Neither category is biblical. God has placed us on this planet to conserve life even when we take an animal’s life. For example, every year over 130,000 whitetail deer are harvested by hunters in the state of Indiana. What if whitetail deer were protected and were allowed to multiply uncontrolled? Then we would have a serious problem on our hands. Hunting deer is an act of conservation. In fact, in some places in Wisconsin, if certain places were not hunted for just five years, entire farming communities would be wiped out from herds of deer eating and destroying all of their crops.
3. If you ever harvest an animal, treat it with utmost respect. In public school, I was taught that “European white men” almost killed off the buffalo, while the “Native Americans” used every part of the buffalo for practical use. Just recently, I found out that both groups of people were guilty of running buffalo off cliffs. Hundreds of buffalo would die in a matter of seconds. Even the Native Americans would then pick and choose which buffalo they wanted to use. If a certain buffalo was bruised up severely because of the fall, they would just leave it there. Yes, once they decided on which buffalo they would use, that is when they would use all of it. It must anger God that so many generations have been so careless with His animals. I have gotten to the point in my hunting experience that when I place a scope on a deer and I get ready to pull the trigger, I remind myself that if I pull that trigger, I am ending this deer’s life. I am in essence deciding that this deer will never see another sunrise. It will never eat another meal. It will never breathe another breath of air. I will end its existence on this earth forever. That is why there have been many times that I have looked at a deer through my scope and have decided to let it walk. God wants us to respect wildlife to such an extent that hunters shouldn’t always have to shoot something to be successful in the field.
4. Take care of the land (Leviticus 25:1-12). Eighteenth century French farming, the best in Europe at the time, produced about 345 pounds of wheat per acre. Modern American farmers produce about 2,150 pounds of wheat per acre (6.2 times as much). In 1949, we spent 22% of our income on food. Today, it is only about 10% of our income. This is a testament to how the farming and manufacturing companies have embraced new technologies so that we don’t need to spend almost 1/4 of our income on food anymore. But we must make sure that we do not destroy the land in the name of advancement and a higher profit margin. Agronomists estimate that two bushels of topsoil are lost for every bushel of corn produced a year. The principles of crop rotation used by previous generations have been largely abandoned. Earthworms are less abundant on farmland, and the bird population has been diminished by the removal of fencerows and hedgerows. If the strip-miners would take bulldozers and push back the topsoil, then rip out the coal, put back the soil, and replace the topsoil, in ten years after the coal was removed there would be a green field, and in fifty years a forest. But, as it stands, for an added profit above what is reasonable in regard to nature, man turns these areas into deserts—and then cries out that the topsoil is gone, grass will not grow, and there is no way to grow trees for hundreds of years! Also, scientific experiments and industrial processes have produced approximately 70,000 different kinds of chemicals. Some chemicals designed to destroy one form of life, such as herbicides and pesticides, may have unintended consequences in other parts of the environment. “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet” (Ezekiel 34:18)? Francis Schaeffer said that human sinfulness manifests itself in the environmental crisis in two ways: greed and haste. Strive to take care of the land so that you leave it in a better state than when you got here.
5. Connect with a domesticated animal. When my wife and I were first married, we decided to buy a little dog. We fell in love with a miniature pincher we named Sammy. She became an important part of our family. We all loved her dearly. She spent nine years with our family before her death. As we were returning her to the ground, we all cried for her as we gathered around her little grave. I cried a lot more than I thought I would. In fact, for several weeks after her death I would think about her and how I missed her. I still think about her from time to time and miss how she would snuggle up to me and show me love like only a dog can. God tells us that a righteous person loves the animals under their care (Proverbs 12:10).
6. Use only as much of a resource as you need. In Deuteronomy 20:19-20, we see this principle. When our daughters learned to use the toilet, we would often see a trail of paper spread out throughout the bathroom and sometimes out the door. We trained them to only use a certain amount, not too much and not too little. Because too little would be dangerous also. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2008, the U.S. generated approximately 250 million tons of trash or about 4.6 pounds per person per day. Do you need to scale back your lifestyle? Focus less on getting and more on giving, and consume less so you can serve more.
7. Properly dispose of your waste (Deuteronomy 23:13). In high school, I remember riding along with a group of friends and we decided to order a pizza. We all scarfed it down and as soon as the last piece was eaten, one of the guys rolled down the window and threw out the pizza box. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There arose in me an anger at what he did, and yet I kept my mouth shut. I should have said something to him. I should have confronted him for his thoughtless behavior. We are experiencing something on this planet that we have never before seen: global toxification. What is this? Let me give a couple examples. Pesticides have been found in the fat of Antarctic animals. Toxic wastes have leached into groundwater and caused certain diseases and sicknesses. Pollutants can even be measured in the upper atmosphere.
8. At least once a day, listen to the earth groaning (Romans 8:20-22). Do you hear the earth groaning? If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the earth crying for redemption. The carp were groaning. They were dying. This is the earth we live in now. Spend time reminding yourself that the earth will someday pass away. But when it does, God will make all things new! And in this new world, this trash fish called the carp will be good again. Until then, it will be my goal to leave this world a little better for my eight year old daughter.