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Bible is very clear about caring for environment
By Lewis Regenstein - For the Journal-Constitution

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Faith and Values” Section
Saturday, April 22, 2006

The beginning of the spring season, with its celebration of the renewal of life, of Easter and of Earth Day, is a good time to be reminded of a little-known fact: The Bible is full of admonitions and commandments to protect animals, nature and the environment.

Among Jesus' many favorable references to animals, he is twice quoted (Luke 12:6, Matthew 10:29) as saying that the Lord cares for all his creatures, even the "lowliest" of them: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God."

God's very first commandment (Genesis 1:22) was to the birds, whales, fish and other creatures to "be fruitful and multiply," and fill the seas and the skies. His first commandment to humans (Genesis 1:28), was to "replenish the earth ... and have dominion" over other creatures.

These commandments concern the welfare and survival of animals, and human responsibilities toward them. So the Almighty must have considered this very important.

Clearly, God was well pleased with the works of his creation. After he made each creature, he saw that each was good and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. And he pronounced the entire creation, when it was completed, "very good."

Later, when God promised Noah and generations to come never again to destroy the Earth with a flood, he included in the covenant "every living creature ... the fowl, the cattle, and every beast of the earth ... " (Genesis 9: 12-17).

Psalm 104 extols the creatures of "this great and wide sea": "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom thou hast made them all: The earth is full of thy riches ... The glory of the Lord shall endure forever."

Kindness to animals is stressed throughout the Bible, and is even required in the Ten Commandments, wherein God forbids us to make farm animals work on the Sabbath. We must give them, too, a day of rest (Exodus 20:10; 23:12).

Psalm 36 states, "man and beast thou savest, O Lord. How precious is thy steadfast love ... " And Proverbs 12:10 suggests there are two types of people: "A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

The obligation of humans to respect and protect the natural environment is another theme that appears throughout the Bible, often referring to just the kinds of problems we face today: destruction of wildlife and habitat, and pollution of our food, air and water .

In the books of Jeremiah (9:9-11) and Habakkuk (2:17), the Lord warns against destroying nature and wildlife. Habakkuk specifically condemns "the destruction of the beasts." In both cases, the punishment is that the land is "laid waste," just what we are doing today to much of our farmland, wilderness and oceans.

Trees and forests are accorded a special reverence in the Bible, and one of the first things the Israelites were commanded to do when they "came into" the Promised Land was to plant trees and allow them to mature before eating the fruits thereof (Leviticus 19:23).

One of the world's first and strongest nature-protection regulations is found in the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 20:19), which forbids the destruction of fruit-bearing trees even when waging war against a city.

Throughout the Bible, the Scriptures impart a strong conservation message, warning against over-utilizing and wearing out natural resources. In Leviticus (25:2-7), the Lord commands that every seventh year "the land shall keep a Sabbath unto the Lord." The fields and vineyards shall be allowed to rest, and what grows naturally will be shared with the wildlife, "the beasts that are in thy land."

Also in Leviticus (26:3-6), the Lord's appreciation for the land is made clear when he promises that, if humans obey his commandments, the land will reward them:

"If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rains in their season, and the land shall yield her produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit ... And I will give peace in the land."

Yet, every year, we subject billions of farm and other animals to enormous abuse and suffering, and our activities threaten the existence of various entire species of wildlife, and of the earth's critical biological and life support systems essential our own survival.

This spring, we should consider whether this is how God intended for us to treat His Creation --- the Creation He declared "very good" and over which He gave us dominion and stewardship. As the Lord said of "every beast of the earth, and ... every fowl of the air ... all that moveth upon the earth, and all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered" (Genesis 9:2).

Lewis Regenstein is president of the Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature, and author of "Replenish the Earth: The Teachings of the World's Religions on Protecting Animals and Nature." 

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God's Creatures Ministry is committed to spreading God's compassion to all He has made based on The Scriptures. Although we are a Christian Ministry, we encourage all to have their own animal welfare committee in their community. We extend our resources to those who would like to learn more or begin their own God's Creatures Ministry as an extension of us. God created us to have a vegetarian diet and commissioned us to protect His animals. Instead, we have exploited them for our entertainment, fashion, appetite and useless, torturous research. These creatures have the right to live as they were created to live. Because we live IN this world, but are not OF this world, we strive to bring God's mercy and justice to all. We live in God's Kingdom now where Jesus, The Sacrificial Lamb, The Prince of Peace, The Lion of Judah reigns. We look forward to that day when all of creation will be 'set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:21) where a little child will lead and guide God's creatures (see Isaiah 11:5-9).

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