Save the Planet, or Save the World?

There are a great many people today who want to ‘save the planet’; it may also be phrased as an interest in ‘saving the environment.’ I would not question their interest or their motivation [at least most of them], and many do indeed seem to be genuinely motivated to do something, and to influence others to change habits and current practices in order to have less of a damaging effect on the planet where we all live. Since we all happen to live here, and it’s the only place God has placed us, it is only logical that we would, at the very least, treat it with the same respect we would demand of someone who has borrowed some valuable item belonging to us, right?

      It is true, according to Scripture, that God “made the earth, and created man on it” (Isa. 45:12), and that He “formed it to be inhabited” by man (Isa. 45:18). We also know that God created man to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). The psalmist also recognized, as he wrote as if speaking to God, “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands” (Psa. 8:6). Unfortunately, man has long often taken that to mean “dominate” every other living creature, as in using and abusing as man wishes for his own selfish purposes, and with little to no concern for what he does to the land or the other living creatures. Man has often stripped the land of its natural resources and indiscriminately killed off living creatures for his own use [think of the American Bison, for example], just for sport, or just because he can.

      Let us not forget, though, that even though God most certainly did give man dominion over His creation, it is still His; man is just its steward. Moses declared as much to Pharaoh, saying, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s” (Exod. 9:29). The psalmist also recognized, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psa. 24:1), and “The earth is full of Your possessions” (Psa. 104:24), after which he names the sea and the numerous living creatures within it, for which He provided their daily needs.

      And what of the material things of this world in which we live? King David acknowledged, “all that is in  heaven and in earth is Yours;…Both riches and honor come from You” (1 Chron. 29:11, 12), and then admitted that whatever material things they were giving for the building of the Temple were not as if it was something to boast about, “For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chron. 29:14). As he concluded his prayer, David humbly acknowledged, “all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own” (1 Chron. 29:16).

      Do we likewise recognize that anything and everything [materially speaking] is the Lord’s, and we are but mere stewards of it? Shouldn’t that change our perspective about how we use it all, why we use it, and how we care for it — and that we should care for it? Remember Paul’s words regarding stewards: “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). While Paul, in that context, was speaking of the gospel message, the principle is the same for anything for which we are made stewards: We must be found faithful.

      Now, with all this said, this is not the main point of the article today; the main point goes to this question: Should we be more interested in ‘saving the planet,’ or in saving the world? Some of you, no doubt, are asking, “What’s the difference?”

      The difference is this: We are likely all well familiar with what Jesus said in John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” Now, was Jesus speaking about preserving this planet on which men live, or was He speaking of mankind, who lives on this planet? I am fairly sure we all understand He was not speaking of the planet itself, but of mankind!

      Jesus Himself plainly stated, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He also said, “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:56). The apostle John tells us, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 1:2); He died to save man from his sins, not to save the planet. The apostle Paul recognized this, too, and focused his efforts on bringing the message of salvation to all men in whatever way he could to save lost souls, noting he had “become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22); Paul did not go through severe persecutions (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-33) in an effort to get people to ‘save the planet,’ but to be saved from their sins!

      How about us? What are we doing to save the world? If you have seen some of the ‘planet activists’ or just those who have an interest in not making this world any worse [physically] than it already is, you have probably seen some very dedicated, fervent individuals who may sincerely believe that this is something they must do; they are thinking that they just can’t sit by and watch the world go to pot and the natural world around them be destroyed without a fight, and so they stand up, speak up, and try their best to make a change in the world. Now, you may not agree with what they believe about what’s going on, but they believe it! And because they believe it, they cannot sit idly by and do nothing. Their conviction drives them to tell as many as they can about it, the future we face if we do not make changes, and maybe even what we can do to slow or stop the path we are headed down.

      I am not here to argue for the validity or the faults of their position; I am here to talk about what they are doing, based on their conviction on that subject, and what we are doing based on our conviction. Again: How about us? Are we as fervent for the cause of the Lord in reaching lost souls and letting them know the reality of sin, the Judgment, and eternity? Does everyone who knows us know our beliefs and convictions about sin, the Judgment, and eternity? Do they know, at the very least, we believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God, and that if any man wants forgiveness and salvation, they must believe and obey Him? Do they know this is something we firmly believe?

      Friends — and especially brethren — what are we doing to save the world? Are we telling them of their true spiritual condition? Are we telling them about Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the Lord’s church? Penn Jillette, an admitted atheist, said this about Christians who are afraid to tell others about their faith: “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” He makes a good point! What are we doing?

      Brethren, let us have true zeal for the Lord and for lost souls. Let that zeal so motivate us that we cannot just sit idly by while the world is heading to eternal condemnation. We know we will face ridicule, exclusion, and even persecution, but what can we expect of the Lord when we stand before Him in the final Judgment?

            Save the world!           — Steven Harper