These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:5-8)
There are two accounts of creation in Genesis.
The first, which appears in chapter 1, emphasizes man as the culmination of creation. God makes divisions – light from darkness, atmosphere from ocean, land from sea – in the first three days and then fills these expanses in the next – the sun, moon and stars as lights; the birds to fill the sky and fish to fill the oceans; and animals to fill the land. He creates plant life with the land, on the third day, and then creates man as the culmination of the living things on land on the sixth.
In the second account, in chapter 2, the land is empty. It is not that it is devoid of any plant life, but rather “the plant of the field” and “every herb of the field” is not growing. These are the types of plants that require man’s attention. Particularly, it is noted that God did not let the plants grow because 1) he had not yet caused rain and 2) there was no man to tend the plants. God then plants these in a garden in the east of Eden and creates man in the garden to tend them.
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (Genesis 2:15)
A lot of arguments could be made about the sequencing of these creation accounts, and there are some valid discussions to be made about it, but the sequencing serves a greater purpose – to illustrate the relationship of man to the earth.
Anyone who is foolish enough to say that man does not have a responsibility to care for the ecology of the earth has not read Genesis. It could not be any more plain. God withheld growth from the plants until there was a man to care for them.
Mankind is inextricably connected to other life on this planet. When mankind fell (Genesis 3), all of creation fell with us (Romans 8:22). We don’t like to be connected because we like to be superior. This is the very sin that Satan tempted us with back in the garden. (Genesis 3:5)
We are not creation’s superiors but rather its stewards. Jesus had some harsh things to say about bad stewards who abuse their stewardship.
A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.
Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. (Luke 20:9-16)
We don’t need to be environment wackos to take care of the planet God has entrusted to us. We would however have to be nuts to ignore the instructions of the Lord of this vineyard.