Kids, Ecology and God

Kids, Ecology and God - Parenting Like HannahGlobal warming. Pollution. Renewable energy. Recycling. If you are like many, those words create a strong reaction in you. It may be positive or negative, but what does God have to say on the subject of ecology? What should you be teaching your kids? What, if anything, should you be doing with your kids to care for the earth?

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may 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.” Genesis 1:26 (NIV) Inevitably, when talking to Christians about ecology, this is the verse that is first quoted. Ironically, I have heard it interpreted in two basically opposite ways – “dominion/rule also implies caring for something” OR “rule means we can do whatever we want – use it up/destroy it, etc”.

When you are told by Christians a verse means two opposite things, it’s time to read the verses surrounding it and look for other verses in the Bible on the same topic. Only then can you be relatively sure, you are accurately teaching your children what God wants them to do.

So around this verse in chapter one, we find God gave the plants for men and animals to eat (everyone was vegetarian until after the Flood). Interesting, but not really helpful for this discussion. In chapter two though, we get another clue. God took man and put him in the garden to work it and take care of it. (v. 15) It would appear mankind’s first interaction with God’s creations in nature was to take care of them. Let’s check some verses outside of this story just to make sure.

Exodus 23:10-11 gives God’s command to let the earth rest every seven years from growing crops – a standard known to care for the soil and the crops. In Proverbs 12:10, it talks about the righteous having regard for the life of their beast. Deuteronomy 22:6-7 contains a command from God protecting mother birds from being taken from the nest and eaten – allowing them to care for their remaining young and to live to lay more eggs.
There are more verses, but if you read them all and add the verses on stewardship, we get a picture of God wanting us to take care of the world He gave us. While some aspects of ecology can be and are debated with supposed scientific facts on either side, some things have been true since the beginning of time.
Pollution for example, is known to make the land, water and air harmful to plants, animals and humans. While every source of potential energy has pros and cons, you and your children probably don’t have much impact on what type of energy is used in your home or outside of it (with minor exceptions). You can however, do things that will lessen the amount of other types of pollution in our world – if only just a bit.
Here are some great things to do with kids that you can pair with a devotional on the creation story. Making them habits, can be your family’s way of being good stewards of what you can in our environment.
  • Recycle. How and how much depends in part upon where you live. You may be able to set up recycling bins in your garage and recycle most of your trash. Or you may have a few large commercial bins where you can recycle newspapers or plastic grocery bags. Don’t just think about trash. Can others wear clothes your kids have outgrown? What about giving others your old toys or books?
  • Be careful where you put your trash and pick up trash others leave behind. This photo is from another country, which seemed to contain litter in every place imaginable. Not only did it lessen the beauty of God’s creation, but it posed a real health hazard. Get in the habit of taking gloves and a bag and picking up trash when you go to the park, beach or other public place. (Use safety measures as some trash can be dangerous when handled improperly.)
  • Use reusable containers whenever possible. Ok, I admit it. I tend to forget my canvas shopping bag in the car, but I recycle any bags I do get. Using a water bottle – instead of one time bottles which are thrown in the trash – saves money and use less landfill space. (Do be careful to wash often though, as many reusable items need more cleaning than they get in most homes.)
  • Be considerate about utilities usage. I’m not saying you have to keep your thermostat at 50* in the winter, but why have every light and tv on in the house when everyone is in one room or has left the house? Higher usage creates higher demand which means the negatives of whatever source of power increase as do costs to the consumer. Limiting usage is also a way to serve those who have limited incomes. If we all use less, demand will decrease and that usually means price decreases – helping those who struggle to pay those bills.

There are many other things you and your kids can do to be good stewards of God’s creation. We shouldn’t worship nature or idolize it, but God does expect us to take good care of it. Teaching your children to take care of God’s creation is the only truly sustainable ecology I have seen. (When based on scare tactics, there always seems to be new evidence, counter theories or just plain fatigue after a time. The measures of the 70’s all but disappeared in the 80’s to be replaced by the latest scares to motivate people. As always godly, intrinsic motivation is the most lasting.) Have fun with it, but teach your kids to do their part to take care of what God has given them.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)