The Curse of the Earth
Within the consequences explained to Adam and Eve after “the Fall” lies an important but often-overlooked section on how the earth will suffer (God is speaking):
cursed is the fertile land because of you;
in pain you will eat from it
every day of your life.
Weeds and thistles will grow for you,
even as you eat the field’s plants;
by the sweat of your face you will eat bread—
until you return to the fertile land,
since from it you were taken;
you are soil,
to the soil you will return. (Genesis 3 CEB)
In Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, we had seen God’s original design for the earth. Animals, like humans, would be fruitful and multiply. Somehow, though – and the link isn’t entirely clear – the action of Adam and Eve choosing to use The Knowledge of Good and Evil will result in the Earth becoming harsher.
We could put this in simple cause and effect naturalistic terms: since we now all sin, most if not all of us sin in a way that hurts our planet. For example, when we throw away large portions of our food, we have unnecessarily harmed the elements involved in producing that food: the animal killed for meat, the fruits and vegetables stopped short of spreading to be further available, the emissions from the factories, and so on. Doing things like this eventually harms the environment. Or we could look at it in a more mystical way where sin is a form of impersonal force present in the world, not only in humans but also somehow in nature. Either way, as Paul puts it centuries later, the Earth is now groaning for redemption (Rom 8:22).
This is an important point in terms of creation care: the state of our environment is not what it should be. Unfortunately, through continued sin, we often make it worse rather than better. Jesus has begun the work of reversing the curse – death, patriarchy, Satan’s rule, and yes, even the damage done to our planet – and we are called to continue working in that stead.
There is much less in the Bible about environmental causes than about many social justice issues, simply because those causes did not exist in a world with a much smaller population, less technology polluting the environment, and less knowledge of our world’s ecosystem. Consequently I’m not sure how much more I’ll be talking about environmentalism from a biblical perspective beyond this post. This theme, though, of God creating the world good, it being cursed, and God promising redemption for it, should be plenty to keep us motivated that this is a matter which is important to God and should be important to us.