by Rev. Alan Kornacki
I went to college in a state that charged a deposit on bottles and cans. I spent a lot of time collecting these items, since there’s usually a lot of empties in college dorms. I’d carry them down the street to the recycling center so I could afford some luxuries (like socks). It’s probably not the noblest reason to take care of the environment, I admit. God gave the earth—the land, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field and every sea-dwelling creature—into the care of man in Genesis 1, so we shouldn’t expect a monetary reward for doing the right thing. God looked at His creation and saw that it was “good,” and there are any number of salutary things we can do to be good stewards of the good creation He has given into our care.
There are some environmental activists, however, who go beyond the bounds of what is proper in their desire to preserve the riches of nature. It’s one thing to shelter animals and protest the abuse of pets. But it’s quite another when fanatics ignore God’s Law in their attempts to preserve nature, and take activism to a place it shouldn’t go.
Large companies often face harsh protests over their environmental records. On July 28, 2009, environmental activists from Greenpeace trespassed at Hewlett-Packard’s main building in Palo Alto, California, and painted an enormous “Hazardous Products” sign on the roof. They claimed to be acting in protest of toxic elements in the company’s products.
Individuals who wear fur are also popular targets for environmental activists. Fur coats are certainly a luxury in these days when we have so many other materials from which warm clothing can be made. It’s true that the animals whose pelts are made into fur coats are hunted and trapped. No one waits for these animals to die of natural causes before taking their pelts. Undoubtedly these animals feel pain. But that doesn’t make it right to use spray paint to damage a coat that belongs to someone else. Whether or not you would wear a fur coat or leather gloves or carry an alligator-skin purse yourself, you have no right to destroy your neighbor’s property. In fact, Martin Luther tells us in his explanation of the Seventh Commandment, “We should fear and love God so that we . . . help [our neighbor] to improve and protect his possessions and income.”
Good Christian stewardship toward the environment doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be something you do alone. The youth group of Trinity Lutheran Church in Norborne, Missouri, participates together in the Adopt-a-Highway program. Their community relies on the blessings God provides through the fruits of the earth, and so these young people take on the responsibility every year of picking up bottles and cans, discarded fast food bags, and other litter along a section of road that leads into their small agricultural community.
Whether it’s promoting the humane treatment of animals raised for food or safeguarding an endangered species, the preservation of green spaces in the middle of urban areas or the use of environmentally friendly materials in the production of goods, it is not a bad thing to be a good steward of the Lord’s creation. But when we allow our passion for creation to stand in the way of obedience to the will of our Father who created it, we turn creation into an idol. God-pleasing opportunities to be good stewards of creation are all around, if you are so inclined to seek them. You don’t need to break the Law (or the law) to protect this world. By all means, work toward the ethical treatment of pets and other animals. Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Call your elected officials and ask them to work for legislation which would protect the environment. Ask your pastor or youth group to seek out opportunities to help in your community, and ask your parents to participate, too. Pick up those empty bottles and cans—even when you can’t return them for money. You can be a good steward of creation and a good neighbor at the same time.
The blessings of the earth are blessings from the same Lord who turned water into wine, the Lord who sanctified the earth with His own rest in the grave, the Lord who daily gives us everything we need to live. More than survival, the delights of creation are good gifts that give us joy and delight, whether it’s the beauty of nature (which even Jesus enjoyed) or the simple pleasure of popcorn during your favorite movie. Thanks be to God for the wonderful gifts of His creation. And remember, above all, that even this creation is passing away but it, too, has been redeemed by the Savior, who makes all things new.
Rev. Alan Kornacki is pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois. He’s not as “green” as he could be. Send your e-mails of protest to or post a comment at his blog: pastoralkorn.blogspot.com.