Tree-Huggers, the Environment, and Jesus: A Christian’s Proper Response to Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. For many of us, we had no idea Earth Day is today, and if we did know it was Earth Day, the only reason we knew it is Earth Day is because it is an “official holiday” on our print or digital calendar. In 1970, “Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. ‘Environment’ was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news."1 With the Earth’s environment being threatened by countless forms of pollution, the U.S. federal government established Earth Day on April 22, 1970. This movement led to countless Americans rallying to protect the environment, the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, and the establishment of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Needless to say, Earth Day implemented massive change in our society.

Despite such massive advances in environmental protection, many consider those who support Earth Day to be “Tree-Hugging Hippies” or individuals with misappropriated priorities. This can especially be true for Christians. As Christians, we question why we should be so focused on the protection of creation when God is assumedly more concerned with humans and the eternal destiny of their souls. We wonder why we should worry about saving the Earth when God intends to recreate it all in the end anyway. Unfortunately, such questions fail to take into account the whole of Scripture.

It Was Good

In Genesis 1-2, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Regardless of where each of us stand in regards to how God created everything, if we are Christian, we believe that God created all things, and therefore we can agree with Genesis that everything was good. The goodness of creation ultimately flows from the goodness of its Creator. “It is a good world in that it is ordered and purposeful.”2 The order, purpose, and goodness reflects the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, the Creator. As Christians, we must recognize that all of creation is not evil or bad; rather, because it has been created by God, it is good.

After God created everything, he charged the first humans to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Genesis also says that God “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). From the very beginning, humans have had the responsibility to care for creation. What makes us believe something has changed today?

How Jesus Changes Our Response to Earth Day

Our response to the environment ultimately does not, and should not, come from our love for creation. Rather, “if the earth has a sanctity derived from its relation to the Creator, then our treatment of the earth will be a reflex and a measure of our own relationship with the Creator.”3 Thus, our concern and care for our world should flow out of our love and devotion to our Creator, God.

In Colossians 1:15-16, Paul writes, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” From this passage, we know that all things, including our earth, were created through Jesus. Through Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus will provide complete redemption and restoration. In Romans 8:20-21, Paul also writes, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” From Scripture, we see that all of creation was created through Jesus and that all of creation will be restored through Jesus and his redemptive work. Moreover, we also know from Revelation 21 that Jesus will come to rule and reign on this restored Earth. Because God’s creation is good, permanent, redeemed, and governed by Jesus, you and I (as Christians) have a responsibility to care of it. As both responsible humans and redeemed Christians, we have been tasked by God to tend and protect our home and environment. Theologian and ethicist, Russell Moore, says it best,

The earth will eventually be restored, yes. That no more discourages ecological protection than the resurrection from the dead motivates Christians to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die. Because the body is important to God, indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit, it matters what we do with it. And because the earth is the permanent dwelling place of Christ Jesus, the point where heaven and nature meet in the rule of Jesus, it matters what we do with it, now.4

On this Earth Day, may we honor our God by caring for his creation as we await its final restoration by our savior and king, Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!

1”Earth Day: The History of a Movement,” Earth Day Network, accessed April 22, 2015,

2David P. Nelson, “The Work of God: Creation and Providence,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 244.

3Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006), 403.

4Russell D. Moore, “Heaven and Nature Sing: How Evangelical Theology Can Inform the Task of Environmental Protection (And Vice Versa),” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57, no. 3 (September 2014): 575.