Creation Care. Part Two

Our role and responsibility as image bearers of God.

John Shepard

4/6/20232 min read

Our Role

Because God delights in and loves His creation, our scriptures tell us we’re given a special gift, a role to have. We are right there in the story of the garden of Eden- we are created in God’s image with a calling, a vocation to share with God in the work of caring for this world… “tending the garden.” (Genesis 2:15)

As one of my Old Testament seminary professors stated: “God’s making the world was like a king planting a farm or park or orchard, into which God put humanity to ‘serve’ the ground and to ‘serve’ and ‘look after’ the estate.” (Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, Meredith G. Kline Wipf & Stock, 2006, p. 69.)

A Privilege and Responsibility

The garden itself is not ours but reflects God’s image, where we now have the privilege and responsibility to tend it and protect it (Genesis 2:15). God initiates a plan for us (the word ‘adam’ here is a word for “collective humanity”). We are to “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” (Gen. 1:26). This is all within the realm of tending to the garden. God finishes the work of His creation by creating us to work with Him.

As Ian Hart puts it, “Exercising royal dominion over the earth as God’s representative is the basic purpose for which God created man… Man is appointed king over creation, responsible to God, the ultimate king, and is expected to manage, develop and care for creation…” (Ian Hart, “Genesis 1:1 — 2:3 as a Prologue to the Books of Genesis,” TynBul 46, no. 2 (1995): 322).

Image Bearers and Gardeners

We work as image bearers of God, caring for the earth just as He would, enhancing and strengthening its beauty and purpose (never killing or ruining it). We exercise dominion over the created world, knowing that we mirror God. As image bearers, we pattern our lives on how  God would care for and nurture what God has given us. Our work is meant to serve God’s purposes more than our own, preventing us from domineering all God has put under our control.

So as gardeners, we are to direct and harness the abundant resources of this garden we call earth under the skillful care and coaching of the Creator. Here there would always be enough. Progress would not pollute, and resources would be replenished. Growth, as in any healthy garden, would renew and restore. The privileges of the strong would strengthen the weak, and humanity would strive for the same aspirations as God: to take care of this beautiful garden and those who live here.

A Big Task Offering Hope

Does creation care sound like a big task? It is. The climate issues we face are complex and come at an enormous cost. When reading the rest of the book of Genesis, one catches a glimpse of not only an ancient people turning for the worse but also seeing our flawed human story. Yet throughout our scriptures, God offers hope. The Creator doesn’t cave or give up on us, and neither should we. (I will expand on this in another post).

Perhaps the best reminder of the Christian’s responsibility comes from the first two chapters of Genesis. We are given only one calling: to care for the garden. It is what we are created for. It's in the DNA of our belief and is a fundamental part of our character and motivation in life.