The Green Bible: An Interview with J. Matthew Sleeth

HarperOne just released the Green Bible, which highlights in green those passages dealing with nature and social justice. The Green Bible also includes essays from Bishop Desmond Tutu, N.T. Wright, Brian McLaren, Wendell Berry, Pope John Paul II, and Barbara Brown Taylor. BidForGreen recently interviewed J. Matthew Sleeth, the author of Serve God, Save the Planet (a book I recommend) and editor of the Green Bible.

BidForGreen: Why do we need a green Bible?

Matthew Sleeth: The Green Bible focuses the reader on the vast amount of scripture that deals with God creating, sustaining, and commanding us to maintain the world. The format of verses highlighted in green allows the reader to easily find relevant scripture. What is God's first commandment to mankind? It is now printed in green. We are to placed on earth to protect and care for the garden. This charge, found in Genesis 2:15, has no time limit. It hasn't run out. We live in an era when environmental questions abound. What should we do about water or fuel shortages? How should we help refugees displaced by flood or drought? The answers can be found in the Bible.

Not only is The Green Bible a tool for finding God's operating instructions for earth, it is an example of how everything we do can model stewardship and sustainability. Care has been taken in the manner of printing and binding The Green Bible, which reflects the understanding that there is no "away." Everything we use will eventually return to our closed system of food, water, and air--even our Bibles.

BFG: Its seems as though you see "green" and "socially just" as one and the same. How do they tie together in the Christian faith?

MS: When my family and I make any decision or purchase, we try to ask ourselves two questions: Will this help me love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength? And will this help me love my neighbor? The answers will always lead us to right ("socially just") action that will be pleasing to God.

Stewardship and social justice both require us to replace greed and selfishness with gratitude and service.

A hundred years ago, most people lived on farms. If an area was experiencing a drought, it would be common--and biblical--to pray for rain. There was a direct causal understanding of God's sustaining hand in our lives. With a credit card and a grocery store, God can seem superfluous.

We say a prayer of thanks before eating because we understand that food is God's sustaining hand in our lives, that many around the world do not have enough to eat, and that food is a gift, not an entitlement. Yet how many of us pray when we fill our cars up with gasoline? If we don't, is it because we think everyone has enough, or that gasoline (and access to clean water, unlimited electricity, etc.) is an entitlement?

You can read the whole interview here.


  1. My answer to the question "why do we need a Green Bible" is:

    How else will the Bible makers participate in the Christian consumerism without repackaging Scripture ad nauseum?

    Here's a thought for finding God's words about social justice and stewardship: Study the Bible you already own and contribute the $40 or whatever you would have spent on this new and "improved" Bible to an actual social justice or stewardship cause.

    *rant ended*

  2. In fact, if people are looking for an organization to support, I recommend Lahash International, a grassroots organization operating in East Africa. Leisha is Lahash's Partnership and Sponsorship Director. I've never met Leisha, but I'm familiar with Lahash. I serve on the Board of Directors for Bola Moyo, a nonprofit based in Portland and working in Malawi. A couple years ago I went to Lahash's Black + White art exhibit at Urban Grind coffeehouse in Portland. I was impressed with the work they are doing.

  3. when i first heard about this it sounded really gimmicky, but the interview makes it seem more legit. i still mostly agree with leisha, but at least it seems like less of a cash grab than i previously thought.

  4. So You're saying that I do NOT need yet another Bible that's so exclusively & topically driven that it compels me to purchase a 25th Bible for my bookshelf?

    But I NEED those green passages! I can't possibly figure out for myself where the Bible tells us to honor and respect God's creation!

    PS - If the experiences of one of my blogosphere friends is any indication, then I too firmly support the work of Lahash.

  5. Hi, my name is Dustin and I work with a Christian environmental organization called Christians in Conservation: A Rocha USA. I saw your post about Dr. Matthew Sleeth, and I thought that you might like to know that our organization sponsors him as a "creation care evangelist." We would love for you to check us out at our website, en.arocha.org/usa. You might also be interested in reading Dr. Sleeth's book on creation care, "Serve God, Save the Planet." He was a website for it at www.servegodsavetheplanet.org.