Recently (within the last two months) I have gained an interest in various outdoors activities, such as hunting, fishing and camping. As a result, I have become a gun enthusiast and a lover of the outdoors. Of course, all of these things have always interested me, just not explicitly and overwhelmingly until recently. The greatest question, then, that I have been facing as of late is whether or not these “interests” serve the glory of the God we serve or whether they are just earthly interests that I have bought into because of my inherent desire to shoot something.
A quick Google search revealed that I am not the only one with this question and certainly not the only one that would like to answer, “Yes. My desires definitely glorify God!” The reality is, though, we are constantly challenged in scripture to overcome the way we choose to fulfill our desires and to legitimately follow in what God has for us on this earth and on the earth to come. Sadly, most answers to this question (found on many blogs and in many forums) were presented without a substantial scriptural foundation and matched what many human desires are. So the question remains, for myself and others: Does the outdoorsman lifestyle actually glorify God? After all, we do take pride in killing God’s creation and owning weapons that were designed to kill (even if that killing does provide us with food).
In the garden
I began my search in Genesis, before mankind rebelled against God (Genesis 1-2). After God created everything, including mankind, he gave every green plant for food (both for mankind and every animal). It seems as though mankind both lived everyday in an outdoor setting and was provided food, by God, that came from plants. I was forced, at this point, to ask whether or not it was possible for animals to die in the Garden, because; if no animal died before the fall and if man did not eat meat, and if God is currently working to restore proper fellowship to His creation, then it would be more difficult for us to argue that the hunting and fishing portions of outdoor life have any eternal significance whatsoever.
Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ Then God said, ‘I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground- everything that has the breath of life in it- I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so. (Genesis 1:26-30 NIV)
We can notice here that man was given authority over the whole of the earth. He was to be the steward of God’s creation; thus using needed materials and acting in conservation. Mankind was to cultivate and keep God’s garden along with all of the living animals. Though the only food given explicitly by God was from green plants, there is no exclusion from mankind eating meat. So, we cannot yet say that Adam and Eve had ham sandwiches, but we also cannot say that they were restricted to only a vegetable and fruit diet.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. (Genesis 2:15-17 NIV)
Here we see the same attention given by God to the giving of green plants to eat. Only this account records the giving of green plants as a prerequisite for God’s prohibiting man from eating of the tree of knowledge. We have to realize that the tree of knowledge was the only thing forbidden to mankind dietarily. Another realization we must make is that God told them what their punishment would be: death. Thus, we can rationally believe that both Adam and Eve had some concept of death. We know, according to scripture, that no man had yet died on the earth. This concept of death must have come by some other means, which could possibly be animal life. If animals did in fact die, then it was either God or man that killed them. disease had not yet entered because creation had not yet fallen and mankind had authority over God’s earth. It would be easy for us to concluded that mankind might have hunted/fished even before the fall, but we cannot know for sure.
After the fall
Immediately following man’s rebellion, we see God slaughtering an animal so that man’s nakedness (both literal and allegorical) might be covered (Genesis 3:21). This could mean one of two things: that animals were corrupted through mankind and therefore okay to kill, or that animals had been from the beginning a resource with which mankind was to be a good steward. Since through all of scripture, God only kills those who out-rightly deny Him (and livestock owned by those people), it is unlikely that God would find it okay to kill any animal simply because it was corrupt. After all, He offered redemption to mankind. It is much more plausible to think that animals, as created by God, had always been a resource for mankind (and God Himself) to use. After all, God did not “breathe the breath of life” into them as He did mankind (Genesis 2:7). With this act, sacrifice, God may very well have put meaning to an already existing phenomenon, much like He did with the rainbow after the flood. Now, all of the sudden, each time an animal is killed it serves as a reminder that God covered the sins of mankind and, now, has paid for those sins through Christ.
So, in hunting we must know that mankind may or may not have hunted before the fall, but now does. That we are to be proper stewards of God’s creation by obeying wildlife conservation laws, purchasing the proper licenses, stamps and tags. With each harvest we remember that God is the one that first covered our shame and now offers complete redemption to His people and that we may or may not be able to hunt on a new earth. After all, there will be no death (Revelation 21:4) (we don’t know if this verse applies just to humanity or to both humanity and animals). We know that we will eat and that there will be a feast. Just not what that feast will consist of.
Fishing, I presume, would be much like hunting. We know that Jesus Himself cooked fish that had been caught (John 21:10-14).
In camping, we surround ourselves with more of God’s creation and less of our own. Man first lived in God’s creation. God’s people will live in His creation on the new earth. Why should we not camp in the midst of His creation now?
Owning weapons, then?
As far as I am concerned, weapons are simply a tool (as is everything else that we own) to use for God’s glory and for no other reason. It is a sin to own anything and not use it for God, and a sin to own anything selfishly or in high regard. We are not materialists and we do not use the tools that God allows us to have in an improper way or worship the tools that we have.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
If we are to be outdoorsmen, we do so that God may be honored in our actions and as a platform to reach other outdoorsmen with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I hope God blesses each of you according to your work in His kingdom!