In the Garden

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that there is a big push to “Go Green.” Environmentalism has entered into mainstream pop culture. Now with oil prices on the rise and sky-high energy prices, more and more people are jumping on the eco-train. And why not? Using less energy = saving more dollars.

What’s more, Americans are becoming more aware of the long-term environmental impact that everyday decisions can have. Global warming has become a household term and a serious concern for many people. We understand now that if we continue on the same track, there won’t be much of an earth left for our grandchildren to enjoy.

This is all good in my opinion. The only unfortunate part about this whole green revolution is that it has begun and is primarily sustained from a secular angle.

Let me explain. In response to the whole global warming issue, I’ve heard many Christians scoff, brush it off, and say that it’s all bumpkis. I’ve heard things like, “The earth can correct itself,” or, “Humans can’t destroy the earth. That’s up to God.” Then there are those who think that Jesus is going to come back and destroy the earth sometime in the next century, so it doesn’t really matter how we treat the earth.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw recycling bins in a church building?

Creation-care has not been the top priority of the church over the last couple centuries. If anything, it has been a passing thought or a footnote. But should it be that way? Should God’s people keep focusing on everything besides the environment? Or should the church be at the forefront of this environmental revolution?

I think it helps to look at God’s intended plan for His creation. In Genesis 2 we see God’s original intention for His prized creation. Just after God made man, He placed him in the Garden with a job.

“The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.”

The first job mankind ever had was tending to, working, and caring for God’s creation.

So you tell me. Does creation care matter? Can’t God just clean up the mess that humans have made of this world? Or is it up to us to take care of the earth, take responsibility for the mess we’ve created, and take measures to correct it?

From the beginning, God has left it up to us to make use of the land and tend to the land. The earth takes care of us, and we take care of it.


Yeah, can you believe someone actually made a movie about dirt? I started watching it the other day, but didn’t have time to finish it. The filmmakers and the interviewees shared some very interesting insights about the ground beneath our feet.

Did you catch the one guy in the trailer who said, “We are dirt”? As a matter of fact, fertile top soil contains pretty much all the building blocks of human life–carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, water, and various other elements and minerals. When any living organism dies, it is broken back down into these fundamental elements to become…dirt.

[This is where I’ll throw in this week’s eco-tip: Composting! Is simple, it’s green, and it will help replenish parched dirt or fertilize your own gardens. For some helpful ways to get started, check out these]

When God made humans, Genesis 2:7 says that He formed man out of the dust of the earth. When a person is dead, they are molecularly the same as when they were alive. Yet, the moment their heart stops beating, their bodies begin the decomposition process, which turns them back into dirt. It’s really the breath that makes all the difference.

God formed the first man from the dust of the earth, and then He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Breath. It’s a simple, unconscious action that we take for granted. We can live without water for a few days and without food for a few weeks. Yet we can only live a few minutes without breath. That breath you just took is the most essential thing we take into our bodies.

Okay….duh? So what’s the point?

In nearly every ancient language, be it Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, etc., the word for breath is the same word for spirit. English has two different words – spirit and breath. Yet to ancient peoples, spirit and breath were the same. When a person died, their spirit and their breath had departed from them. We think of it as a double meaning, yet to them, it was the same. It is the spirit that sustains life. Our physical bodies cannot survive apart from our spirits.

So what is it that separates us from dirt? Our spirits. The breath we just took is a taste of the divine, it is a gift from God. It is a physical manifestation of our spiritual reality. Apart from God’s Spirit, we have no true life in our bodies. The same held true in the valley of dry bones found in Ezekiel 37. And again, the same language is used in Acts 2 when the Spirit of God fills the room like a violent wind.

Breath is essential for our bodies to survive. But it is just as essential that our lives be filled with the breath of God. If not, then “all we are is dust in the wind.”

Imago Dei, part 2

There is so much more to this thing about “being made in God’s image” than I really want to take time to discuss. All I want to do is share some thoughts from a few different angles.

Found this picture. Had to add it. 😀

Last time we looked at the job that God intends for his image bearers to carry out – tending to, caring for, and ruling over the rest of creation. This is the first and foremost responsibility given to human beings. That word “responsibility” will come into play several more times.

So here are some more thoughts on the Imago Dei. I’ll try and keep it brief.

1. All humans are created in God’s image. That’s right. All humans bear His image – male and female; red, yellow, black, and white; rich and poor; slave and free; alcoholics, homosexuals, and devout Christians. We have a tendency to place people into various categories when we encounter those different from ourselves. We see a middle-aged, black female who is a single mother living on welfare. Judgments are made, and stereotypes are created.

But when we let the truth of Imago Dei really sink in and take root in our own lives, we will begin to see everyone around us as fellow image-bearers. Prejudice and discrimination have no chance to manifest themselves. Hatred, bigotry, and oppression cease completely. Everyone is made in the image of the same Creator, and that Creator loves each one of us.

2. The image has been tainted. Each one of us has vandalized the very image of the One who created us. Although we have been given this great privilege, we have thrown it back in His face. We think things like, We never asked for this! We never wanted to live up to the standard which God has set for us! It’s not fair. It’s too much responsibility. I just want to live my life the way that seems best to me.

And we just go our own way, minding our own business, not giving a second thought to the honor bestowed upon us.

This type of thinking then leads to a radically individualistic mindset. The product of which is the type of justification for sin that we see all around us. Lady Gaga even puts the justification to song and dance with her new hit “Born This Way.” If we reject the image of God for our own image, then we have no responsibility other than to ourselves. It comes quite naturally, then, that we were hardwired from birth to make certain decisions with our lives: be it alcoholism, drug addiction, habitual lying, homosexuality, or any number of lifestyles which are considered sinful in Scripture.

3. The image can be restored. God has taken it upon himself to provide a way for his tainted image to be made clear again. He did this by coming down to earth as a man, living from birth to death as one of his own imagers. He showed us what it meant to be human, to be the image of God in this world – and we killed him for it.

Yet, through his resurrection from the dead, we, too, can have true life once again. By his blood, we are made clean. By his wounds, we are healed. By his sacrifice, humanity can be set right again, and we can all get back to bearing proudly the image of the One who made us and then re-made us.

Imago Dei, part 1

Why are we here?

This is a fundamental worldview question with which mankind has wrestled since the beginning. Although we ourselves are mammals, and although we share many similar qualities with certain other mammals, when I look around, I can tell there is something unique about human beings. I have heard people say that the only characteristic separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our intelligence. Yet there are animals that are extremely intelligent and community oriented, just like us. (And according to others, humans are only the third smartest race on the planet…)

So what is it that really separates man from beast? I believe the answer to this question is also the answer to the original question: the Imago Dei, or the Image of God for you non-Latin speakers.

It is true that humanity is closely linked with the rest of the animal kingdom. Mammals and humans were created on the same day. Genesis 1:20 even says that all the animals have the “breath of life” in them – the same breath given to Adam.

The real difference comes when God says, Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”

Ok, so humans made in the image of the Creator. This is something new, something special. God actually stepped back for a moment, looked at all He had created, and decided to create beings to bear his image to the rest of creation. Well, why?

Apparently, being one of God’s mini-me’s comes with a job description: “They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground”…Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

I chose the New Living Translation for this passage. Unfortunately, the job description/blessing given in these verses has been misinterpreted and abused. People used to understand “rule over/have dominion over” as permission to do with the earth and the animals as we saw fit…and we see how well that worked out. The world is not ours to do with as we please. As the NLT puts it, we are to reign over and govern the rest of creation.

Think of it as a prime minister/ambassador/vassal king position. We are ruling, watching over, and tending to that which ultimately belongs to someone else. We have been given the charge to participate with the Creator in the creative process by tending to, caring for, and governing the rest of creation.

There are other aspects to the Imago Dei which I will explore later, but first I wanted to address the most obvious side of the image of God. Each and every one of us continues to bear the image of the Creator to the rest of creation. Are we making every effort to live up to that image? 
Or are we living as though we have no responsibility to the world around us? Are we healing or destroying? Are we creating or killing? Are we caring or exploiting?

In every aspect of our lives, we should be striving to bear proudly the image of the One who lovingly created it all.