Previously we saw that the biblical instruction for the human race to “subdue” the earth and to have “dominion” over other living things does not give mankind a license to abuse and exploit nature. Christians who think otherwise are out of sync with Scripture. Rather, dominion means stewardship. There are several ways to demonstrate this, but the most obvious is to look at nature through God’s perspective. If God loves, finds joy in, and carefully provides for the survival and welfare of non-human life—independent of His even great love, joy in, and provision for humans—it seems self-evident to me that the human race ought to willingly be God’s caretakers over the creation He values. Here are the Scriptures that back this up.
First, God “owns” nature, not people: “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine” (Ps. 50:10-11; also see Ps. 24:1).
Second, God designed the world to support animal life as well as people: “O LORD, you preserve both man and beast” (Ps. 36:6); “The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isa. 43:20). Moreover, God provides specific food and habitats for specific wildlife: The wild donkey was given “the wasteland as a home, the salt flats as his habitat” (Job 39:6). The eagle builds “his nest on high” and “dwells on the
cliff . . . a rocky crag is his stronghold” (27-28). God “makes spring pour water into the ravines” to give “water to the beast of the field” (Ps. 104: 10-11). He planted cedars in Lebanon so that birds could make their nest and “the stork has its home in the pine trees. [In addition] the high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys” (vs. 16-17). At night “the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God” (v. 21). Jesus told His disciples that not a single sparrow “is forgotten by God” (Luke 12:6) and pointed out that God provides animals their food (Matt. 6:26; Luke 12:24).
Third, the vast majority of the animals God created play no role in human welfare, and much of what happens in nature only God observes: God causes rain to “water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it” (Job 38:26). He asked Job, “Do you know when the mountain goat gives birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time when they give birth?” (39:1-2). The self-evident answer to these, and the other rhetorical questions that God asked Job, is that only God observes these events and is present when they occur. On the other hand, humans are told to care for the animals under their charge (Exod. 23:12; Prov. 12:10 ).
Fourth, God’s covenant with Noah after the Great Flood includes not only people but all animal life (Gen.9:8-11). Moreover, the prophet Hosea spoke of another covenant that would occur in the distant, eschatological future when God will make a covenant “with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground . . . so that all may lie down in safety (2:18).
This is just a small sample of the many passages throughout the Bible that reveal God’s perspective on animal life. If God loves and cares for the earth and its wild inhabitants, certainly people ought to honor God by willingly being His stewards over what He values and cares for. If you would enjoy a full study of our stewardship responsibilities in creation, as revealed in the Bible (and other related issues), get my book Should Christians Be Environmentalists? (Kregel Publications, 2012).