Week 10, Day 5: Creation Care
The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it,
the world and its inhabitants too.
Because God is the one who established it on the seas;
God set it firmly on the waters.
- Psalm 24:1-2
In Week Three, we looked at Creation as part of the gospel story — how God made all things good and commissioned human beings to be stewards of creation. Few, I would hope, would argue that we are to take care of our planet and our natural resources; few would argue that our actions have consequences and that how we use, misuse, and abuse our planet and our natural resources can have detrimental effects. Instead, the questions are about what and how. Is recycling enough? Owning a hybrid or electric vehicle? Walking or biking everywhere?
When I was a kid, I was taught to care for the planet by practicing the Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. (Also, by Captain Planet and the Planeteers.) I remember learning about a hole in the ozone (which is actually a thinning rather than a hole) and how our overuse of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals found in aerosol cans and refrigerants a few decades ago) was contributing to that ozone depletion. At least one of the lessons was that we should cut down on aerosols. So we did, and changes were made in the chemical makeup of those products that helped alleviate the damage.
Now, in one sense, I don’t think we should need a ‘biblical’ justification for why we should take care of our world. For me, there’s a certain logic to the idea that you should treat well the place we live and where our kids and grandkids will live. The Native American Iroquois tribe is credited with the philosophy of making decisions with seven generations in mind; not just decisions that affect the earth but certainly not excluding them. There was an understanding that to get as much as we can for ourselves right now was an unsustainable — and morally wrong — attitude by which to live. (The youth of our world are already recognizing this: just a few days before I wrote this, over a million young people in over a hundred countries took to the streets to demand stronger climate policies. They have to live in the world left by our decisions.)
But if we need a biblical basis for creation care, we have it: first, God put the man in the garden in Genesis 2 to “till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, NLT); the Hebrew words are abad (“to serve”) and shamar (“to preserve”). Fulfilling God’s mandate to subdue the earth and have dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28) means to care for it as God does, not to despoil or destroy for our own purposes. Second, as we are reminded in the Psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1) — it all belongs to God and it has been entrusted to us; as with everything we have been given to steward, we will be held accountable for it (Luke 12:48). But the apostle Paul puts it yet another way.
READ: ROMANS 8:19-22
“The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters” (Romans 8:19). There is in that sentence the possibility and the responsibility that we bear as stewards of creation.
In a world reeling from tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and the effects of climate change, how do we care for God’s creation? In the face of these phenomena that feel larger than we can address, what can be done? As with the other issues we have looked at this week, many of which are too much for one individual to overcome, the answer is a mixture of each of us taking personal responsibility — allowing the change to begin with us — and collaborating in community to effect broader change.
In her book The Very Good Gospel, Lisa Sharon Harper offers four suggestions for individual practices to see God’s shalom or wholeness in relation to creation:
practicing generosity so that all might be cared for;
practicing simple living by forsaking overconsumption of making sure all have enough;
practicing dependence on God for basic needs; and
practicing reciprocity, an intentional act of restoring what is taken.
For some, caring for creation means going vegetarian. For others, it means offsetting their carbon footprint by planting trees. For others, it means refusing to use certain products or to buy from certain companies. For others still, it means starting a communal garden and sharing the produce. The various iterations of how we care for creation will be as numerous as we are. But as long as we all start from the standpoint that our world belongs to God and that we are responsible for serving it and preserving it, we can trust the Spirit to stir our responses with imagination and creativity. Creation is waiting for the children of God to be revealed.
REFLECT & RESPOND
Head: How do you care for God’s creation?
Heart: What feels overwhelming to you about creation care, or all of the threats to God’s creation? What feels encouraging or empowering to you?
Hands: Pay attention to your consumption habits and temptations today — what you buy and/or throw away (or what you think about buying and/or throwing away), e.g. food, products, etc. What might it look like to buy and/or throw away less?
Reflect on the truth that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” Ask God to show you how he would have you live as a steward of creation.
Creation is waiting for the children of God to be revealed.