During the Battle of Helms Deep In The Two Towers,  Gimli was driven into Aglarond, the Glittering Caves behind the fortress. When he came out he told Legolas about the wonders he had seen there. When Legolas replied that it was well that the dwarves did not know about the caves because they would ruin them, Gimli indignantly replies:

“No, you do not understand… No dwarf could be unmoved by such loveliness. None of Durin’s race would mine those caves for stones or ore, not if diamonds and gold could be got there. Do you cut down groves of blossoming trees in the springtime for firewood? We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap–a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day–so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock. And lights, Legolas! We should make lights, such lamps as once shone in Khazad-dum; and when we wished we would drive away the night that has lain there since the hills were made, and when we desired rest, we would let the night return.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers)

The biblical mandate God gave to humanity to have dominion over the world and subdue it has often been blamed for the Western world’s plundering of the environment, for pollution, and for a host of crimes against nature. And in fact some Christians have advocated plundering the earth’s resources for our own use with no thought for the future, often on the grounds that Jesus will return soon and so what we do to the earth doesn’t matter since it’s all going to burn anyway.

Historically, though, most Christians have not understood the Genesis passage in those terms. The Bible teaches that the earth is the Lord’s not ours, and our “dominion” is that of a steward, not an owner. We were given responsibility to complete the work of creation that God began using the resources God provided for us. And this means that plundering, polluting, or otherwise destroying the world is a direct violation of God’s mandate to us. As a result, theologians such as Calvin have understood that our responsibility is to leave the earth in better condition than we received it–properly cultivated, but stewarded for the next generation to continue the work we were given.

We are thus responsible to complete the work of creation, to bring out all that the world is capable of producing, but to do so in such a way that we will be able to present it to God completed, not marred by our efforts. Gimli’s dream for the Glittering Caves of Aglarond is good example of how we should see the creation and the care we should take in developing it.