Idolatry

Idolatry: The Earth

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Today there is a lot of fervor concerning the environment. There are all kinds of studies being done about the future of the earth. It is very popular today to “go green.” How “going green” is defined depends upon your level of commitment. For some people, going green is changing light bulbs and turning the water off while brushing your teeth. To others, going green is to sell your cars, ride bicycles, and live on solar power alone. In this age of being environmentally conscious, we need to ask this important question. Where should the Christian stand on these things?

Earth Idolatry (Romans 1:25)

The apostle Paul explicitly states the problem when he wrote to the Christians in Rome. In Romans 1:18 Paul declares that the wrath of God has been revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Paul goes on to talk about the problem of idolatry in the heart. They “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). The people did not want to seek after the glory of God. Rather, they wanted to worship the earth and the things that live on the earth. Paul continues in verse 25. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:25 NET) The people worshiped the created rather than the Creator God. This is the very problem that we see today. When the earth is referred to as “Mother Nature” we are personifying the creation and making it to be God, as if it has feeling, power, and will. There is no “Mother Nature.” There is God who created all things and set the system of this world into motion. The power and organization that we see in this earth is not to cause us to worship it, but to worship God who created it.

This is the essence of most of the idolatry found historical. The people worshiped the rivers, the stars, the sun, the sky, the rain, the ground, certain mountains, and even certain animals. Just because we do not make a graven image of these things and bow down to them does not mean that the creation is not worshiped today and is not an idol in our hearts. Now the lie is to combine environmentalism with worshiping God. Godliness is frequently depicted as loving the earth, loving the animals, and going green. What we need to do is look at the scriptures teach about our role on this earth so that we can know what to think of these things.

The Godly View of Creation (Genesis 8:20-9:7)

When Noah and his family get off of the ark after the great flood, God makes a number of promises about the way God would run the earth now. What God says here is critically important to our understanding  about how we should understand the earth and role on it.

  1. God will not curse the earth again like he did in the flood (Genesis 8:21). Even though our hearts are wicked from the days of our youth, God declares that he will not do to the earth what he did in the flood. He will not strike down every living creature like what happened in the flood. Please notice in verse 22 that as long as there is an earth, there will be a seedtime and harvest. There will be a summer and a winter. There will be cold and heat. There will be day and night. This is God’s promise, even if we act wickedly. Even if every person on earth turn away from the Lord, God said that these seasons and cycles will continue on the earth.
  2. God commands for people to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Population control has been a teaching that has been on the rise in various cultures including our own. We are being presented with the idea that human life should be limited to protect the earth. God says the opposite. God tells humans to fill the earth with your children. Being fruitful and multiplying does not picture having 2.5 children. Multiply! God says that there are no limits on having children. The earth has been created by God and is prepared for us to fill the earth with God’s children.
  3. Animals fear humans (Genesis 9:2). Animals do not fear humans because we are mean and awful creatures. God made animals fear humans. Every animal, every bird, every beast, and every thing that creeps on the earth was given the fear of humans by God. Something has not gone wrong for animals to fear humans. God made the world this way. The attempt to humanize animals is foolish. Why are we shocked when they act like animals? (Example: Sea world accident)
  4. Everything, including animals, are available for eating (Genesis 9:3). Notice that God says at the end of verse 2 that all the animals, everything created, is given into the hands of people. Verse 3 explains this point further. Every living thing is food for you. Just as God gave the plants to eat, so now everything that is alive is for eating. In the garden of Eden we read of God telling Adam and Eve to eat of the plants in the garden (Genesis 1:29). After the flood, God says just like you can eat the plants, your food is also to be every moving and living thing. This is a big deal today. If you want to only eat vegetables or only eat meat, you have the ability to do so. What you do not have the right to do is make a god out of your choice. God gave everything to eat. You do not have the right to tell people what they should or should not eat. To imply or suggest that one diet is superior to another is to usurp the authority of God and worship the creation.
  5. Respect life (Genesis 9:4). There was only one restriction given about eating animal, a restriction that is restated in the law of Moses as well as in the book of Acts in the laws given to the Gentiles. Do not eat the blood. Do not eat the blood. While every animal is given to us for food, there is to be a respect for life at all times. There is no place for killing animals for the sake of killing them. There is no place for callousness about what God has given us. We are not to be cold-hearted, blood-thirsty beings. We are to give thanks to God for the food we eat and respect the life. Do not drink the blood.
  6. Humans alone are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:5-6). The NLT does a good job translating this complicated sentence in verses 5-6. “And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image.  (Genesis 9:5–6 NLT)

Since humans alone are made in the image of God, then human life is supreme. Only human death requires an accounting. If an animal kills a person that animal must die because the highest life form in the creation are humans. If a human kills another human that killer must die. Life is to be respected. God is teaching us the high value of human life. I am amazed at how far we have moved away from this truth. Some time back I was watching a show where a woman was talking to a man and he was discussing how much he loved his dog. But he made the point that even though he did not know her, he would sacrifice his beloved dog for her because she was a human. Shockingly, she disagreed! She said that he did not even know her but loved his dog. She was completely confused on the order of the creation. Human life stands above all animal life. The reason is that humans are made in the image of God. Humans alone are made in God’s image. Animals are not to be treated like humans. Humans are given a special, high value by God. This is the proper view of the creation given to us by God.

Problem of Pride

Before we conclude we need to sound a warning on this topic. The warning is the concern about pride. We are to be good stewards of the blessings God has given us. But this cannot turn into the stepping stone to pride. What happens is that I am a better human being because I recycle, or I use cloth bags instead of plastic bags, or I drive small cars, or I ride bicycles, or save animals, or any other thing you think is important. These are just areas of pride, suggesting that you are superior to another because your concern for the earth or the animals. Do not make an idol out of these things. Do not think you are worshiping God by doing these things. Further, it is sin when we make the greatest thing the saving of an animal’s life rather than a human, or more, the saving of one soul.

Conclusion

There is a question that every Christian must answer: Is God in control of the outcome of the earth? How you answer this question determines everything about your perspective on the creation. Listen to the words of our Lord as you answer that question.

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:5–7 ESV)

He 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15–17 ESV)

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:22–26 ESV)

The end of the earth will come when God is ready for the earth to come to end. We make ourselves gods by thinking we have power over the earth, the power to sustain it or the power to destroy it. God holds all things together by his powerful word and has promised that the earth will continue this way until he declares its end. It is up to us to see him as the Creator and love him for what he has done for us. What a great display of love to create this earth and make sustainable for humans to live on for generation after generation. God’s power is on display through this world which is to cause us to give God the glory and worship him, not the creation. Turn to your Creator today and obey him.

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