Did you know that this year the world’s population will exceed 7.5 billion people for the first time, having doubled in the last fifty years. Seven billion people! Where will everybody live? How will all those mouths be fed?! And this population explosion is just one of several major environmental challenges that face us in the modern world:
- For example, contemporary consumption patterns, especially in the affluent West, have created a waste mountain of packaging, products and discarded possessions. This waste all needs to be disposed of in a sustainable and efficient way. Did you know that in the UK we create four times our own bodyweight in waste each year? Where can it all safely go?
- Resource depletion is another environmental challenge. Fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas won’t last forever, while deforestation and desertification are major problems for the developing world. Clean air and water can no longer be taken for granted in many countries either.
- And of course, climate change looks likely to create major challenges for us all, but most especially for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
As a result of these massive challenges, the environment is constantly in the news, climate change is a political “hot potato”, and we are all urged to “go green”. We will be thinking this morning about a Christian view of the environment. How are we to respond to the green movement? Should Christians care about the world we live in?
Psalm 8, and the Bible as a whole, teaches us that this world is neither a cosmic fluke nor a chaotic accident – it is the deliberate Creation of a good God. Whatever view you take on exactly how God made the world, whatever scientific theory you subscribe to, we cannot deny the beauty, order and complexity of his universe. Indeed, science itself would be impossible if the world really was irrational, chaotic and lawless.
The author of Psalm 8 was certainly in no doubt that this amazing world was created by an awesome God. It says that he has put the heavens “in place”, and the earth is the “work of his hands”.
Because it is the creation of a great and generous God, Christians must care for our world. Our Psalm 8 this morning reminds us of our God-given responsibilities for the world he has made. And its appropriate that we tackle this topic on harvest Sunday, when we give thanks for the wonder of God’s creation, and for all it gives us.
In particular, I think today’s psalm reminds us humans that we have a right to rule over the world, that we have a duty to care for it, and thirdly, that we are called to praise the God who made it.
A right to reign, a duty of care and a call to praise. Let’s look at these three truths in turn…
1. A Right to Rule
Firstly, in verses 5 and 8 of our passage today we are told that God has given humans the right to rule over Creation. These verses tell us that humans have been given the responsibility to rule over “all flocks and herds and the beasts of the field”. And we are also responsible for “the birds of the air and the fish of the sea” and “all that swim in the paths of the sea” as well. In short, we are to rule over everything under our feet. Psalm 8 is clear that we humans are unique, the pinnacle of his creation. We are “only a little lower than the heavenly beings” as it says in verse 5.
As God’s image bearers, we humans have been given the knowledge, power and intellect to govern his world. Of course, as Creator, God retains ultimate authority over the world he has made. But our psalm today says that he has delegated some of his kingly power, some of his authority, down to us. We are to be God’s ambassadors, his ruling representatives here on Earth. We have the permission, privilege and power to rule over God’s world.
Humans’ power over creation is seen in the amazing advances of science, and in the astounding modern technology that enables us to explore, engineer and enjoy the world around us. From the Hadron Collider to our own home cooking & gardening, we humans have been given an amazing ability to manage and manipulate the world around us. We can cultivate crops, design computers, and send satellites into space.
These are amazing privileges, awesome rights to have been given by God. But with rights come responsibilities. Our right to rule over creation is NO excuse to exploit it or abuse it. So with our right to rule also comes with a duty of care…
2. A Duty of Care
The Bible gives Christians no excuse to sinfully dominate or destroy God’s creation. Today’s psalm says we are to rule the world – not wreck it! There is a huge difference between responsible rule of creation and willful neglect of it. There are countless practical ways in which responsible Christians can care for God’s world today. For example:
- At home, we can do our best to recycle, reuse or renew our old or unwanted possessions.
- And we can seek to adopt a simpler lifestyle, reducing our consumption of goods and services that are most damaging to the environment. For example, can we cycle or walk a little more and drive a little less?
- We may also be able to reduce our energy consumption by turning off lights and appliances when we aren’t using them, or by installing better insulation in our homes.
- On the national and global scale, are we able to give our money and backing to environmental organisations? For example, Christian charities like Tearfund exist to help protect God’s world and its most vulnerable people.
Our world is a gift from God, and we are all ultimately accountable to him for how we treat it. So let’s all take our duty of care seriously, doing what we can for our environment. Let’s be faithful stewards and show a duty of care.
3. A Call to Praise
One third and final feature of Psalm 8 ought to capture our attention. As well as stressing our right to rule and our duty of care, today’s psalm includes a call to praise. A call to praise the majestic God who made our marvelous world. The Psalm begins and ends with words of praise to God, doesn’t it? Words we should join in with: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
As Christians it is our joy and privilege to praise our our Creator. We should not be like those who worship nothing, who believe the world is simply a product of blind chance. Nor should we be like some New Age and pagan religions which worship the earth itself, confusing the creation with its Creator. We should joyfully praise the one God who made heaven and earth, the same God who showed himself most fully and perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ.
So next time you take a walk in the park, look at a beautiful landscape or tuck into a plateful of food, do give thanks and praise to the God who has graciously given them!
Conclusion: Christ and creation
As I finish, I hope Psalm 8 has reminded us on this harvest morning that God has given us a beautiful world to rule over and care for. A world we should rightly praise him for.
The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that there was one man who totally fulfilled this God-ordained role for humanity. Someone who totally fulfilled his God-given rights and responsibilities, whilst we so often fail. That man was Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Hebrews chapter 2 tells us that Jesus, above all, is the human being who is the rightful king of creation, the one person who has been crowned with all glory and honour by his Father. As Christians we should look forward to that one day when all things will be very visibly put under Christ’s feet. The day when Jesus shall reign as undisputed king of creation, when all things in heaven and earth will be recycled and made new. The day when every knee shall bow before him.
So let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we praise you for this beautiful world which you have made, and thank you for entrusting it to us. Please help us to care for your creation, and to long for the day when Christ’s rule over it shall be complete. In his name we pray, Amen.