When I first wrote about a marriage/environmentalism connection ten years ago, there was no need to clarify what I wasn’t trying to say. But today it seems only prudent to note that while some people are now pretending to “marry” bits of natures – maybe a tree, or the earth, or as happened with one university group, the ocean – that’s not what we are talking about here.
There is a marriage/environmentalism connection to be found in the Bible. While it takes some digging to find, understanding this connections helps us understand what God wants from our stewardship of the Earth.
We find this linkage in Genesis 2:5b. Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible renders the text a little differently than most other versions. Rather than being told there was no man to till, tend or work the earth, Young reads, “…and a man there was not to serve the earth” (emphasis mine).
Serve the earth? This doesn’t seem to make sense when you consider that only one chapter earlier man was told to have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28-30). Still, Young’s translation is a legitimate one – the Hebrew word here that is translated as “serve” is translated the same way throughout the rest of the Bible. So how then do we make sense of this call to have dominion, and this verse that tells us we serve the earth?
In Exploring the Heritage of John Calvin, Clarence J. Vos makes the point that having authority does not preclude serving. Marriage is an example of this. A husband is given authority over his wife but must love her like his own body, and must love her as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:21-33). He is given authority but must use that authority to build up his wife and family.
This idea of “serving authority” makes sense in nature as well. It is our job to rule it, and our responsibility to take care of it as well. This “serving authority” sets Christian environmentalists apart from our secular counterparts who certainly wish to serve nature, but don’t believe Man should have dominion over it.