When we seek God’s direction for care of God’s world, it is easy to skip from dominion to fall to new creation, entirely missing critical “green commandments” that fall in between. In the interest of opening a bit more of the “whole counsel of Scripture,” here are 10 green commandments for the care of the earth we often miss.
The Right Place of Animals in the Creation
Humans may have been created just below the angels (Psalm 8:5) and we have some kind of responsibility for animals, since God allowed us to name them (Genesis 2:19-20). But animals are not so far from us in the order of creation as we are in the habit of thinking.
1. “If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.” (Deuteronomy 22:6-7)
The blessing for treating the mother bird well when taking a baby bird or eggs from the nest is the same blessing we receive for honoring our human parents (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Ephesians 6:1-3). What does this say about the importance of the mother bird in the created order according to God’s commandments?
2. “If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible.” (Exodus 21:28)
The dangerous animal is not slaughtered; it receives the same penalty as a human murderer according to God’s commandments. Its owner is only held responsible if the animal has a habit of goring people, according to subsequent verses. If the bull habitually gores people and the owner has not adequately controlled it, the owner is treated as accessory to murder. Owner and animal die together. Animals hold great responsibility in this world God describes.
3. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.” (Exodus 20: 9-10)
Beasts of burden and beasts that carry people get the same day off as people. Perhaps this is just another way for God to emphasize that his people cannot work. God has made it impossible for us to delegate Sabbath day work to slaves and immigrants, allowing them to use our farm animals. Or perhaps it extends the honor and holiness of the Sabbath observance to all alike, including farm animals.
The Right Place of Plants in the Creation
God makes it clear that plants are not the same as people. At the same time, he establishes protection and care for plants.
4. “When you lay siege to a city for a long, time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them?” (Deuteronomy 20:19)
God reminds people that plants – in particular fruiting trees – are not to be destroyed in the process of fighting a battle. The trees are not enemies and can become a blessing.
5. “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten.” (Leviticus 19:23 )
For any who are unacquainted with basic agriculture or so greedy as to attempt an early harvest, God is setting a boundary. Give the fruit tree enough time to mature so it will have quality fruit for years. Do not ruin the tree before it has time to become established.
Continued on Monday, Earth Day!