Everyone knows Jesus was a carpenter, but did you know that he was also an environmentalist? And that the Bible, with its calls to care for the environment, can serve as a handbook for environmental stewardship when read through a green lens?

Author Matthew Sleeth examines these ideas in his new book, "The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book," an eye-opening look into the many characters and passages in the Bible that espouse common themes of environmentalism, such as stewardship of the land and conservation of resources.

In some ways, the environmental movement has been so co-opted by elitist entities (Whole Foods, anyone?) that it’s easy to forget that the basic tenets of conservation and environmentalism can be found in one of the oldest, most widely read books to date — the Bible. The most obvious case is that of Adam and Eve, who were tasked with tending the Garden of Eden. As Sleeth points out, God’s first commandment to humankind involves gardening: “the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. In the Hebrew tongue, ‘dress’ and ‘keep’ roughly translate to ‘tend’ and ‘care.’”

Another cue that the Bible is a sort of green guide to the world is the organic nature of Christ’s language, which is found throughout the Gospels. Take John 15:1, 5, for example, which Sleeth cites. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower …. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” If that’s not a call to provide and care for the Earth, it’s hard to know what is.

These and other compelling examples give readers a fresh and intriguing perspective on an old and often controversial story. Along the way, the author mixes in helpful tip lists adapted from the book "Go Green, Save Green: A Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money and God’s Green Earth," written by his wife, Nancy. The straightforward and fairly simple tips cover a wide variety of subjects, such as ways to combat consumerism and promoting more responsible food practices, and complement the book nicely.  

Most notable, though, is Sleeth’s ability to provide readers with a convincing argument to consider a simpler, more respectful way of life without coming off as preachy, a welcome relief to those whose eyes glaze over at any sign of sermonizing. At the same time, Sleeth avoids offending the more devout by presenting an alternative view without watering down or cheapening the overall message.

Religious or not, Sleeth’s commonsense approach will likely leave readers feeling like there’s so much to gain and so little to lose by taking care of the environment, but the key is to start before it’s too late. As the author points out, “Everyone believes that ark building is a great idea once it has begun to rain. The trick is beginning an ark six months before the flood.”