Why It’s Wrong for Christians to Mistreat Creation

What kind of love for the neighbor would manifest itself in greedy and rapacious attitudes toward the earth, its resources, and its species?
Contributing Writer
Updated Sep 01, 2022
Why It’s Wrong for Christians to Mistreat Creation

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26

What It Means to “Have Dominion” Over Creation

One reason Christians have been particularly weak in dealing with ecological issues and the deterioration of the natural environment is a misunderstanding of what it means to “have dominion” over creation.

Dominion does not mean destruction, but responsibility. It is important to avoid flawed convictions about the right and power of humankind in relation to the rest of the natural world. Francis Schaeffer elaborates:

"Fallen man has dominion over nature, but he uses it wrongly. The Christian is called upon to exhibit this dominion, but exhibit it rightly: treating the thing as having value itself, exercising dominion without being destructive. The church should always have taught and done this, but she has generally failed to do so, and we need to confess our failure . . . By and large we must say that for a long, long time Christian teachers, including the best orthodox theologians, have shown a real poverty here." - Pollution and the Death of Man

How We Image God in Dominion

It is true that a false view of dominion has played a role in the mistreatment of creation, but a correct understanding of the concept can lead to service, responsibility, and stewardship.

As Genesis 1:26 tells us, our being the image of God is directly connected to our “having dominion.” The image of God is a quality that pertains to our relationship with God. All creatures have their common origin in God, who not only created all that is but who continues to be active in the world, seeking their shalom.

Imitate Jesus

Our calling within the created order is to image the Creator. When this is applied in a serious and consistent manner, the idea of human dominion over all creation must be reinterpreted as something other than destruction. The lordship of Jesus should be our model for understanding how we relate to the natural order. This means that dominion should be expressed as service—sacrificial service of the others with and for whom we are responsible—rather than mastery.

To be the image of God implies that, standing within the relationship with God, the human creature reflects God’s vicarious and gracious relating to other humans and creation. To image and love God means to love others and care for creation. This is why the Anglican tradition prays, “Lord, give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.”

Love Your Neighbor

Theologian Douglas John Hall asks, “What kind of love for the neighbor would manifest itself in greedy and rapacious attitudes toward the earth, its resources, and its species? Can one possibly be said to love God and one’s own kind if one treats God’s creation and one’s neighbors’ habitat with disrespect?” The question becomes all the more significant if it is asked with the understanding that our “neighbor” includes a global community and the generations yet to come who will inhabit and inherit the kind of biosphere that is left after we are gone.

Making All Things New

God gives us the opportunity to reflect him in his work of caring for and transforming all of creation. To follow this aspect of our multifaceted calling as humans is to image in our lives the One who is at work in the world and in human life, creating, sustaining, and liberating creation. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s first step in making all things new, which will culminate in a renewed world that completely honors Jesus, who rules it.

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and theology professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He wrote On the Grace of God, Know the Creeds and Councils, and Know the Heretics. Justin also co-authored with his wife, Lindsey, Is It My Fault? and Rid of My Disgrace. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.

What Should a Christian's Viewpoint be Towards the Environment?

Christianity.com: What should a Christian's viewpoint be towards the environment?-Mike McKinley from christianity.com on GodTube.

Bible Verses about Nature and Creation

"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:7-10)

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1)

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

(Excerpted from "Bible Verses about Nature")

A Prayer for Creation and Society


The state of our world convicts us and causes us to cling to You for dear life. The volatile history of mankind’s fallen nature is recorded in Scripture. Human history is scarred. The deplorable conditions of our world continue to increase.

Bless and heal the world, Father. Come, Lord Jesus. May Your love comfort every soul as only You can. Bring hope to the hopeless and unity where there is conflict.

Motivate us by love to work together, gathering souls for Christ. Show us our place, Father, and embolden us to obey Your direction. While our world is crumbling, You remain the same loving, defending, and protecting Father. Amidst the rebellion and destruction, You reached down to restore us to the light of Your presence through Jesus.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Light pierces the darkness. We do not have to succumb to the doom-and-gloom reality of our society because we have the power of the living God in us through salvation in Jesus Christ. Your love forges a path for us, illuminating the way and adjusting our perspective to see past destruction to hope.

You are a personal, saving God, creating each of us with a purpose, allowing us to feel Your love and extend it to others. May Your love rule our hearts, because all life flows through it.

Forgive us for allowing the ways of the world to overwhelm us. Help us to be a consistent source of light for all those around us.

You see us, God. You hear us. You are good and You are fair. Prepare our hearts, Lord who goes before us. Repair our wreckage, God of our memories. Bless and empower us with Spirit-fueled confidence, Lord of our hearts. May all we do bring glory and honor to You—as shards of light piercing the darkness.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Excerpted "3 Beautiful Prayers for the World We Live In" by Meg Bucher)

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