Good Stewards for Endangered Species

"Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name" (Genesis 2:19)

Polar bear cub

In principle, few people are against protecting species that are about to go extinct. After all each of us has a favorite animal or bird, a favorite and familiar neighborhood species, and the thought of any of those becoming extinct strikes us as wrong.

In the book of Genesis, we find that the Lord made every living creature. If you think of the diversity of life on this planet; the truth that God made every creature is absolutely stunning. Not only did God make each creature, but he brought each creature before us so that we might name them. Just as God had named us we would give meaning to the abundance of what God made. To truly ponder the magnitude of this task leads one to appreciate those whose vocational life is committed to studying God's creatures and to agree with the late great theologian John Stott who reminded us "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them!"

In Genesis 1 we find a common blessing, a blessing of flourishing for mankind and all of God's creatures, how do, with God's help, continue that kind of blessing in light of sin and the complexities of species protection. How can we protect the very creatures God has asked us to name and watch over?

In the United States the primary protection for species on the brink of extinction is the Endangered Species Act. Passed in 1973 and signed into law by President Nixon, it recognizes that providing for living creatures requires the protection of their homes and habitats. The Endangered Species Act acknowledges the standard established in Genesis in which God made humankind the caretakers of creation by providing an important safety net to prevent the extinction of species. Over the years the Endangered Species Act has had a wide range of funding levels, making the implementation and practical work on species protection left to the states with their own varying abilities to raise revenue.

Understandably, some private owners and businesses have had challenges and concerns with the Endangered Species Act. A portion of those concerns relates to how the law is implemented and how wide its reach is. Sometimes the law is used to protect species that aren't very well known or understood. Some landowners don't know how the law applies to them and many become worried that finding an endangered species on their property will significantly change and/or alter their business practices. With farmers just trying to make a living the idea of adding more complexity to their lives for an un-heard of species is simply unwanted. Mostly there is a lot of misinformation about the Endangered Species Act.

This is all the more reason for Christians to be informed and to take action. As stewards of God's creation, we want to promote the flourishing all the species, even the incidental ones, under our care. We trust that God will help us use the talents he's given us to come up with creative solutions to important challenges. (Some helpful resources can be found here). We want the government to not come in with a heavy hand, but to partner with us to make proactive changes and provide some partnership when our ability to make changes may be more limited.

Working to preserve and protect all of God's creatures is a way not only to glorify God, but to obey him, too.

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