Introduction: This week our study is about nature. Ecology
is a popular theme these days. Christians are sometimes
criticized for having too little concern about the
environment because they know ( Revelation 21:1; 2 Peter
3:10) this world is going to burn and God is going to give
us an earth made new.
How, then, should we relate to nature? Is the environmental
issue a campaign without a Biblical basis? Let’s explore
the Bible and find out what it has to say!
- TREE HUGGING ANYONE?
- When our first house was built, I was anxious that
the builders preserve as many trees on the lot as
possible. Later, as I observed other developments,
I saw it was common for developers to cut down
every tree in sight, build the new homes and then
plant new trees!
- What sense does this make? Anyone here know
about building? Does this practice make any
- What kind of issue is this? A practical or
- Our lesson (Tuesday) suggests that the Bible
“hints” that we should not “abuse” nature by
cutting down trees (or at least not cut too many
trees.) It asks us to read Deuteronomy 20:19-20.
Let’s read that text.
- When the text asks “Are the trees of the field
people that you should besiege them,” what
point is God making? (You don’t have a gripe
with the trees!)
- Is this a practical or moral point?
- Why? (“Practical” seems to be the
correct answer. Not all trees are
protected in this text and a
practical and not moral rational for
the command is given.)
- If you said, “practical,” and you were
wrong, would there be any “downside” to
being wrong? (Absolutely, you would be
sinning if you engaged in this activity.)
- If you said, “moral,” and you were wrong,
would there be any “downside” to being
wrong? (Let’s read another text:
- Does God tell us that it is sin to
call something a moral issue when it
- Do you know if Jesus had a theology of trees? What
was it? Let’s look at Mark 11:12-14.
- Was the lack of fruit the tree’s fault? (It
says it was not the right season for fruit.)
- What was Jesus attitude towards this tree?
- Let’s read on. Mark 11:20-21.
- Does this disqualify Jesus from being
called a “tree-hugger?”
- Let’s read on: Mark 11:22-23. Also read
another account of this in Matthew 21:21.
- What do you have to say now? Jesus not
only is talking about His disciples
killing trees, He is talking about them
throwing mountains around? Is Jesus a
regular environmental terrorist?
- What is Jesus’ point in these verses? Does
it have anything to do with nature? (The
“punch line” is Mark 11:24. Read. Jesus
“point” is that we should have faith in
God. Such faith overcomes any natural
- What, if anything, should we conclude
about nature from this story? (Nature
is surely secondary to teaching the
disciples a lesson about faith. Jesus
could not reasonably be called a
“tree-hugger.” In both the Old
Testament and the New Testament,
comments on trees show that they are
intended to serve the needs of
mankind-and not the other way
- Our discussion so far seems to deprive nature (at
least trees) of any value independent of aiding
mankind. Let’s read a text our lesson suggests
should change our mind. Read Revelation 11:18.
- What are the criteria for being saved in this
- What are the criteria for being destroyed?
- Is the lack of concern for the environment
a basis for being lost? (Vines tells us
that the Greek word translated “destroyed”
means “corrupted.” Thus, this could be
read “corrupted the earth.” This, however,
has certain logical problems because this
same word is used twice and it would not
make sense to say “corrupt those who
corrupt the earth.” Adam Clarke’s
Commentary on this text says it refers to
“authors, fomenters, and encouragers of
bloody wars.” The SDA Bible Commentary on
this text says it refers to those “who
have destroyed the earth – physically, and
also spiritually.” Barnes’ Notes suggests
this refers to those who have “spread
desolation over the earth and who have
persecuted the righteous.”)
- ENVIRONMENTALISM AND WORSHIP
- We have all read or heard someone talking about
“Mother Nature” or speak of sinning against “Mother
Earth.” Do you see any danger in this?
- If “no,” tell me why?
- If “yes,” tell me why?
- Let’s read Romans 1:20. Does this verse suggest an
important reason for preserving nature? (Yes. We
learn of God’s nature from His creation.)
- Let’s continue. Read Romans 1:21-25. Where did
these people go wrong? What is their sin?
- Do you see a parallel lesson in this text with
the lesson to be drawn from the withered fig
tree? (There is a hierarchy and a balance.
Nature is the servant of God for advancing His
divine purpose. It is not a substitute for
- Verse 24 tells us that God gave these people
over to sexual impurity because of their
attitude towards nature.
- How does this make any sense?
- What relationship do you see between cause
and effect? (If you miss the hierarchy, if
you miss that God, not nature, is the
standard, then you open yourself up to all
sorts of sin and corrupt thinking.)
- Let’s read Mark 6:31-32, Luke 5:16 and Luke 6:12.
What do these verses suggest, if anything, about
worship and the environment?
- Would your closet do just as well?
- Read Psalms 23:1-3. Is this simply an analogy
for shepherds or is this a statement about how
being out in the environment can advance
worship? (These verses suggest what is
reinforced by experience, that being in nature
can bring us closer to God. On the other
hand, you have probably been in nature a time
or two where the biting, stinging, sucking
things did not help bring you closer to God.)
- GOD’S VIEW OF NATURE
- Late in life, one of my father’s hobbies was wood
carving. He carved a large unicorn for us. I would
not consider defacing that unicorn in any way.
- Why do you think I have that attitude?
- Is that the attitude that God expects us to
have of His creation?
- Let’s look at a text. Read Psalms 33:6-9. How
does the Bible reveal that God created nature?
- Does this increase or decrease the value
- Is this an “easy come, easy go” situation?
- If my dad simply spoke the unicorn into
existence, would I value it less?
- Does this “speaking” stuff reinforce the
idea that God is way above His creation?
(We do not see Him struggling to put it
- Read Luke 12:5-6. What is the context of these
- What does this tell us about the extent of
God’s concern and awareness of His creation?
- Since we have seen Jesus’ relative unconcern
about trees, do you think God distinguishes
between plants and animals?
- Do you see a parallel between this text and
the story about Jesus destroying the fig tree?
(Yes! These texts are identical in one very
important way: in both, nature is used as a
lesson to increase faith in God.)
- Friend, we need to avoid the extremes on both sides
of the ecology issue. God created nature both for
our benefit and to help lead us to Him. Because
God created nature and because it is a gift, we
should be careful of it. On the other hand, nature
is clearly here to serve mankind and not the other
way around. Any attempt to deify nature or to raise
its importance about that of mankind is contrary to
the teachings of the Bible.
- NEXT WEEK: SABBATH AND REDEMPTION IN CREATION