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By Larry Rice
As Henry David Thoreau said, “What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” Providing homes for the homeless doesn’t make sense if our planet is becoming homeless. If we truly care about the issue of homelessness we must address the whole area of ecological homelessness.
Planet earth is not well. The environmental destruction and devastation that it is experiencing is primarily the result of human activity. As Calvin B. DeWitt stated, “Human beings have become the predominant destructive force on Earth. With power of hands and minds amplified by machines, our impact exceeds that of great floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. The time has come when we can envisage the end of nature; the time has come to realize that we are able to destroy the Earth.”
We must awaken to the fact that the home we are destroying is not our own. Ronald J. Sider points out that, “Anyone who thinks God created the non-human world merely for the benefit of persons has not read the Bible carefully. God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies (Matt. 6:26-30). God watches over the deer hind in the mountains, counting the months of her pregnancy and watching over her when she gives birth, though she never encounters a human being (Job 39:1-2). In the story of the flood, God makes a covenant, not just with Noah and his family, but also with the non-human creation. ‘I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals and every animal of the earth’(Gen. 9:9-10). Knowing that they all give joy to their Creator, Christians will treasure every species.”
God has created all of us, every living creation; to live together in one big home called planet earth. If we allow this home to be destroyed, where will we go? What will we do? For this reason we read in Rev. 11 after the seventh trumpet is blown, “The nations raged but your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead, for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints and all who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18).
God has called us to be stewards of creation, the home He has created for all of us. Being earth keepers and not earth breakers involves us directly in the issue of environmental justice. The reason for this is if we have a disregard for the welfare of planet earth and the “least of these” species who live upon it, we are in reality being indifferent to the oppression and violence of the most vulnerable.
It was my growing concern over the oppression and ultimate violence that the poor and elderly were experiencing in their energy needs that led me into the field of renewable energy. For years I had watched the most vulnerable in our society become increasingly enslaved to the big utility and oil companies. In an attempt to help them experience energy independence, I began to earnestly pray for direction concerning alternatives to the big corporations which controlled the utilities and fuel that people needed on a daily basis. As I prayed, I felt God leading me to step out in faith and start traveling throughout the United States exploring all different types of renewable energy. The more I prayed, traveled and researched these alternatives, I became increasingly concerned by the destructive activities these big controlling companies were causing as they relied upon the fossil fuels. I learned that the fossil fuels of coal, gas and oil were contributing directly to the destruction of the earth’s protective ozone shield as well as growing asthmatic conditions of children, miscarriages among women due to the mercury released by fossil fueled power plants, plus how destructive mining techniques were destroying the earth’s surface.
Renee Schoof from McClatchy Newspaper reported, “A one-year study by the National Research Council looked at many costs of energy production and the use of fossil fuels that aren’t reflected in the price of energy. The $120 billion sum was the cost to human health from U.S. electricity production, transportation and heating in 2005, the latest year with full data. The report also looks at other hidden costs from climate change, hazardous air pollutants, such as mercury, harm to ecosystems and risk to national security, but it doesn’t put a dollar value on them.”
As time passed I became more aware that it wasn’t just the big utility and oil companies but the life styles of all of us in America who were participating in the growing problem of ecological homelessness. Each day more than three species of plants and animals were being eliminated from the earth. One hundred thousand square Kilometers of primary forest (the size of Ireland) was being destroyed each year. Land and water-quality degradation, along with waste generation and global toxification is on the way to destroying planet earth as we know it. When you study Ps 104 you will see this destruction contrasted with the remarkable integrity and beauty of creation that has inspired people since the beginning of time to praise and worship our creator and redeemer.
Even though most people know something is wrong and claim to be concerned they find it easier to live lives of apathy and denial. Mark Hertsgaard in his book, Earth Odyssey states, “Most people tell themselves that dangers like global warming and ozone depletion are so far off in the future that they don’t really exist. On some level, these people may know better than that, but the possibility that we humans are dooming ourselves is simply too terrible a thought to absorb. It is much easier to pretend the danger doesn’t exist, or adopt a childlike faith that everything will turn out all right in the end – surely the experts will think of something! – and burrow back into the routine of paying the bills, getting the kids off to school, and waiting for the weekend.”
People will talk about being green and caring about the problem of ecological homelessness, but in reality it’s back to business as usual. It is so much easier to have a religion that blesses us and tranquilizes us than a relationship with a Living Christ who challenges us to be homemakers on our home planet earth.
The first step to bring about change is to recognize the problem and then seek God for solutions. The initial problem is our indifference and lack of faith to bring about such change. The larger problem is to ask the hard questions like Stuart Primm does in his work, A Scientist Audits the Earth, “Earth at the turn of this millennium is suffering from huge and unmistakable human impacts. Some – the loss of species, certainly, and the loss of tropical forests, most surely – are about to become irreversible. What does this mean for our future as human beings? What will Earth be like as our numbers double?” Primm goes on to say, “Our world is not doomed, it is not fatally wounded, but neither is it healthy. It needs attention, for without stewardship, its wounds will fester.”
It is one thing to hear faith preaching in the safety of the sanctuary, it is another thing to implement such faith in response to the world around us. For a long time I have been concerned about the growing problems of drinking water from plastic bottles. Sure, we can recycle those plastic bottles, but in reality most of them end up in the landfills. Then I read following the earthquake in Haiti that 308,000 bottles of water were being distributed on that Island every day. I took that concern of that daily mountain of empty plastic bottles both in Haiti and America where 2,000,000 every hour are used, to God in prayer. As a result, I am now working with some of our staff in the development of housing through the use of these plastic bottles. I am not exactly sure where the research and development in this area will take us, but I know I can’t sit back and do nothing. If I’m a believer that believes I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, (Phil. 4:13) then I must step out by faith and move forward.
Thomas Berry has stated in his work, The Dream of the Earth, “Emotionally we cannot get out of our confinement, nor can we let the outer world flow into our own beings. Therefore, we cannot hear the voices speak, or speak in response.” For some it is a lack of knowledge to the extensiveness of the problem of growing ecological homelessness. The National Environmental Report Card declares, “As the results of the most recent surveys make clear, Americans lack the basic knowledge and are unprepared to respond to the major environmental challenges we face in the 21st century.”
For others it is a problem of denial. Mark Lymas concludes, “We live in a society consumed by denial, where politicians make the occasional speech about the gravity of the climate change crisis and then go right back to business.” As a result, “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now (Romans 8:19-22).”
How much longer does creation have to suffer because those who claim to be redeemed refuse to exercise the faith needed? Prediger and Walsh in their book, Beyond Homelessness, have correctly stated, “The world is amiss. The earth is amuck. We are feeling homeless on our home planet… Providing homes for the homeless has no point if our home planet is in peril. Addressing the pervasive and pressing issue of socioeconomic homelessness, important as that is, makes little sense if we do not address the equally pervasive and pressing issue of ecological homelessness. Moreover, ecological destruction has a disproportionate impact on the poorest of the world’s population, and it compounds their experience of homelessness.”
James Speth in his book, Red Sky at Morning points out that,” many of the things they (the poor) are forced to do merely to survive degrade the environment: the search for fuel wood de-vegetates the land, making it more susceptible to erosion and fertility loss; the effort to produce more food depletes the soil nutrients and leads to overgrazing and clearing of forests and woody areas; and reducing the follow periods compounds these problems.”
Although the problems may seem in many respects overwhelming, there are solutions we as Christians can pray about implementing. In the problem sited above we can make a big difference for good by helping the poor, particularly in countries like Haiti, India, Africa, etc., learn how to build and use solar cookers. When I introduced the solar cooker to a church in India the women immediately broke out in applause knowing how many hours they would save not having to look for firewood.
Many of the problems relating to ecological homelessness are much more complex. In the chapter entitled, Ten Drivers of Environmental Deterioration, James Speth, in his book cited earlier includes the following complex issues: population, affluence, technology, poverty, market failure, political failure, the scale and rate of economic growth, the nature of our economic system, our cultural values, and globalization.
Although time and space does not allow me to go into detail on each of these important areas, I believe I must point out a quote by Christopher Flavin. He states that, “the annual increase of the US population of 2.6 million people puts more pressure on the world’s resources than do the 17 million people added in India each year.” Do you realize that if everyone lived as excessively as we do in the US it would take three planets to support this world? Victor Lebow proclaimed: “Our enormously productive economy… demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and selling of goods into rituals. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing rate.” Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of God”.
Norman Wirzba points out how our present cultural value system with a worldview that is almost exclusively human centered has contributed to ecological homelessness. “The eclipse of divine transcendence, once understood to be the source and goal of the world, created a hole that would be filled by human beings who now positioned themselves as the center or source of meaning and value. No longer microcosms of the creation, people are the autonomous beings who in an expression of rational freedom, chart and direct the fate of themselves and the world. Again the history of this development towards autonomy is complex. But what emerges is a self, cut off from the world of which it is a part and a world shorn of all remnants of final causality. Nature, a self-regulating mechanism, stands as the arena on which reason and technique can be exercised.”
Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh point out that, “With ourselves at the center and the world a machine, nature gets reduced to the status of an object – merely a resource to be used and, if necessary, abused. It is not difficult to see how such a perspective on the world and one’s place in it sanctions the despoliation of the earth. Viewing ourselves as autonomous creatures, fundamentally unrelated to either God or the rest of creation, we have shaped a culture, an economy, and have built an environment subject to no principles beyond our own self-aggrandizing aspirations and with no sense of kinship with other creatures or their habitats.”
In Romans 1:20-25 Paul clearly points out how such a worldview is not only detrimental to creation (or the environment) but directly effects each and every one of us. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
The time has come to worship the Creator and recognize His gift of creation by treating it with dignity and respect. To shove the Creator out of our worldview and make creation or the environment the object of our worship, by seeing it exclusively as a resource to be used to feed our god of greed, will ultimately end up in homelessness for all of us. The time for repentance is now. Our sins against creation are resulting in ecological homelessness. Not only does it presently cause us to wonder through our home called earth with a sense of detachment, but to directly destroy this home.
This is the home planet God has placed us upon. Don’t you think it is time we began to care for it with the same stewardship and love God shows us daily?
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By Larry Rice
Humanity’s dependence upon fossil fuels has created a pending collision with the very fabric of creation through the destructive forces of global warming. Now the Church has an excellent opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed as it provides education, implementation and inspiration through God’s gifts of renewable energy.
- Education – The Mid American Renewable Energy Center and Missouri Renewable Energy under the direction of Larry Rice is set up to provide educational materials, classes, and energy fairs for local congregations (see www.moreenergy.org). The hands on education that is provided offers viable solutions to the growing concerns relating to global warming and cancer causing pollution’s provided by dependence upon the fossil fuels.
- Implementation – Not only does Mid American Renewable Energy have an extensive educational program that it desires to share with the church but it also provides the technical assistance necessary for the implementation of such. Through a wide variety of classes and energy fairs participants get hands on opportunities to make bio-diesel, solar carts, solar cookers plus directly engage in many other areas of implementing renewable energy.
- Inspiration – Educating and implementing renewable energy source like the sun, wind, water etc. causes the participant to take a closer examination of creation and the creator. It also enables missionaries both in developing world countries and in over developed countries like Europe and the USA to provide clean non-polluting methods of creating energy.
In countries like India, Haiti and Africa a large percentage of the work for women is used for gathering firewood for cooking. It is estimated that 2,000,000 lives each year are lost as a result of the pollutants and burns from wood burning fires and kerosene. When Larry Rice introduced the use of solar cookers to a large gathering of women in India a great wave of shouts of joy and clapping swept across the audience. The women knew they no longer would spend many hours gathering wood. The use of methane gas has also been widely successful in India.
Because there are more than 2 billion people without electricity in the world, the potential for worldwide evangelism is almost unlimited. In India solar lanterns have opened the way to share how Jesus is the Light of the World. Teaching individuals now to make bio-diesel through the use of used vegetable oil, with the addition of methanol and lye provides the illustrations for showing the homeless and others how Jesus can take a material that society treated like a waste product (the sinner), and then by adding the lye (of His Word) and the methanol (of His Spirit) to produce the productive fuel of changed and productive lives through Jesus Christ.
In Europe, the United States of America and other so called developed countries where some consider the Church irrelevant, the implementation of renewable energy provides a viable alternative to the bankrupt spirituality of such post modern thinking. The tangible solutions and alternative fuel sources offered through the implementation of renewable energy cause even those who do not regularly attend church to be introduced to the invisible things of God (Romans 1:20) like the radiance and electric power creative by the Sun through photovoltaics and the wind. This is illustrated by the Christian creed from 1561 entitled, “By what Means God is Made Known to Us.”
“We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even His everlasting power and divinity, as the apostle Paul say (Romans 1:20), all which things are sufficient to convince men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to His glory and our salvation.”
The time for action is now. We must turn from an escapism Eschatological theology to a Biblical activist second coming teaching believing Jesus meant it when He said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,’” Matthew 25. Caring for creation involves direct action to help those whom Jesus referred to as the least of these.
A Biblically based Second Coming theology also addresses the preservation of creation and the judgment for those who refuse to do such. Read what happens when the seventh trumpet is blown as described in Revelations 11:18 where it says, “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
The time for action is now. Churches must arise, pray and seek God as to what steps of action must be taken now. Jesus said His people are to be the salt and the light, (Matthew 5:13-16). This means engaging in penetrating action and letting the light shine on the darkness of earth’s destruction until those engaged in such destruction run for cover. It also means taking creative steps to offer alternatives to the fossil fuels, which drive our cars and light our homes.
Christ has called His church to be a headlight in the dark world, not a taillight following the world’s direction. As citizens of the Kingdom of heaven which Jesus declared has arrived as a result of His coming, we are directed to awaken and “let your light shine before people that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,”(Matthew 5:16).
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By Larry Rice
In the midst of a hurting world of homelessness, environmental destruction and hopelessness, a theology of inter-relationship is urgently needed. Such an inter-relational theology is reflected in the covenant God made with Noah following the flood. He declared, “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you, the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you–every living creature on earth”(Gen. 9:9,10). A Biblical inter-relational theology caused the Psalmist to declare, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).
Developing a relationship with the rest of creation including the poor, the fatherless and the homeless, involves the realization that all of life has value because of its relationship to God rather than its usefulness to the rest of humanity. After all as Psalm 24:1 declares, “the earth including all life on it is the Lord’s.” He created it (Genesis 1 and 2, Job 38:4, Psalm 19:1), sustains it (Matt 6:26) and redeemed it (Col.1:15-30). When a relationship is broken as a result of greed and sin, the result is pain. St. Basil who lived from 329-380 declared, “We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of human kind with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to thee in song has been a groan of pain.” Adlai Stevenson said in his final speech,
“We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and the love we give our fragile craft, and, I may say, each other.”
There are two religions at work today in America. The first one is the religion of self-centered consumerism; the looking out for number one. The second is true Christianity which stands directly opposed to the false religion of consumerism because it calls us to seek first the Kingdom of God and not our own self interests. True Christianity takes Jesus at His word when He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt.6:19-21). This world has been designed to work only if humans are good stewards of one another and all creatures, and seek God’s will above all and store up treasures in heaven. As Christians we must realize that God so loved the world (the complete cosmos of all of creation) that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to redeem the world, reconcile it and restore it free from the destruction of sin. As followers of Christ we are to be a part of this same healing mission by caring for those in need and the rest of creation.
Calvin B. De Witt stated,
“A perplexing puzzle exists. Those who follow Jesus Christ largely neglect the claims of Jesus Christ on the world as Creator, Integrator, and Reconciler. Instead, many Christians overlook, neglect, and in some cases even despise Christ’s creative, sustaining and reconciling works in creation. These beautiful works of Jesus Christ are expressed in the beautiful hymn of Col.1:15-20. Jesus Christ is Creator, Integrator, and Reconciler yet many, who call on His name abuse, neglect and do not give a care about creation. That irony is there for all to see. Honoring the Creator in word, they destroy God’s works in deed. Praising God from whom all blessings flow, they diminish and destroy God’s creation here below. The pieces of this puzzle do not fit! One piece says we honor the Great Master! The other piece says we despise His great masterpieces! Creations degradation by those who confess the Creator while trampling, muddying, and degrading the Creator’s works remains a great puzzle. Why should those who love and honor the Creator act in creation as though they despise God’s masterpieces that are displayed across the great canvas of the biosphere and the heavens beyond?”
Creation is the manifestation of God’s work (Gen.9:12-17, Hosea 2:21-22, Matt 5:45). It is good and valuable (Gen. 1:31, Job 38-41, Ps.148:1-10 and connected to God by His word (Gen.1:3-9, John 1:1-5, Heb.1:3). Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Gen.1:26). Each and every human being is made in the image of God. It is for this reason that we are advocates of justice, working to help the poor, homeless, fatherless, widowed, elderly and others in need. We must never forget that each person regardless of his or her social status is made in the image of God. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”(Eph.2:10) We are God’s work of art, His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus and given the opportunity to join Him in the work of creation through the good works He has prepared for us to do. What a privilege it is to serve the Lord by caring for God’s special people in need and God’s creation.
We cannot afford to ignore this privilege. We must realize that the destruction of creation affects the most vulnerable in society, the poor, elderly, sick and children the most. As resources become scarce and expensive, the poor are the first to experience the consequences of shortages as well as global warming. They don’t have insurance to cover disaster resulting from climate change. The elderly and needy are the hardest hit by rising fuel and energy costs. The low income are the first to be let go when cut backs take place on the job. They are the least able to protect themselves against the ravages of pollution as toxic dumps, landfills, open servers and contaminated drinking water flow through the urban ghettos and shanty-towns in the world.
Do you know what a workaholic is? It is someone who instead of being controlled by drugs or alcohol is controlled by their possessions and their work. This addiction prevents them from caring for God’s people and God’s creation. It is as difficult to point out to a workaholic that they have a problem as it is to the alcoholic or drug addict that they do. The workaholic gets their fix from what they do and what they own. They think they are free when in actuality they are controlled by their possessions and their work. They can temporarily go off their addiction but they keep coming back each time for a bigger fix. The workaholic has to be in total control. They are incapable of communication when they are getting their fix because anything said to them is repudiated by the comment, “I’ve got my business or ministry to run that’s the way it is”. Just like the alcoholic there is always just one more drink but in this case it is just one more job they tell themselves. The fact is the workaholic will never really be free unless they give their total life to Christ along with everything they own and develop a self awareness of what they are doing to themselves and those closest to them as a result of their addiction. As they remain in their addiction like the alcoholic and drug addict they ultimately destroy all relationship as a result of this addiction and are incapable of allowing themselves to love or be loved. They view love and each relationship as competition to their first love of getting their next fix from their business at hand. The workaholic like the alcoholic or drug addict can never get enough. For the alcoholic it is alcohol, for the workaholic it is doing work, getting more and more done, and acquiring more and more things. They live by the clock and ultimately die by the clock. They define themselves by what they do rather than what they are. The workaholic is as sad and empty inside as the drug addict and alcoholic. They have convinced themselves that this is the price for success as the materialistic capitalistic society they live in affirms their addiction. Anyone and everyone they meet who in their mind are not living the same frantic pace they are living, and labeled in their workaholic mind as either being lazy, unsuccessful or misguided.
The workaholic has no real room in their life for a deep committed relationship to God, creation or anyone else. God is regulated to His place as well as friends, family and creation, to be used only when convenient. If someone even a love one appears at the wrong time it is considered as interference to the workaholic’s idolatrous worship of getting, gripping and hoarding and always achieving. The deep insecurities in the workaholic drive them to be a success, as they have defined it at all costs. Those closest to them usually become codependent either feeding their addictions through their affirmations of the workaholics achievement or they are shut out of the workaholics life all together. Luke 12 is a chapter where Jesus directly confronts workaholics particularly in verses 13-21. In verse 15 He declares, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions.”
When given a psychological test the workaholic will show they are prone to addictions. They find this hard to understand because they can’t bear the thought of being a drug addict or alcohol because they see how those addictions turn people into being what, in their mind, are worthless human beings. Workaholics can’t stand such people because work alcoholics get their fix from their work. That’s where their treasure and their heart are. With their treasure and heart there, everybody else including God who competes for their heart is considered a threat. Such workaholic individuals usually die every bit alone as the alcoholic or drug addict. In pursuit of their nest egg, which causes them like the man described in Luke 12:16-21 to build bigger and bigger and more and more they tell themselves, as in verse 19, that someday they will then have plenty of good things laid up for many years and can then take life easy, eating, drinking and being merry. God’s response found in verse 20, 21, is “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
The solution is given in verses 22-34. Freedom is found and specifically given in Luke 12:33 but very few workaholics do what verse 33 says. Instead they just take off looking for another fix as they tell themselves how they have a right to keep it all, after all haven’t they earned it through their hard work. The workaholic refuses the truth found in verse 33 and will usually shut out those who bring them such truth as they seek others who will affirm their workaholism and help them get that next fix.
This verse is a litmus test of who is possessed by their possessions. The possessed the workaholic cannot hear and apply these words of Jesus. They seem unreasonable out of date. Because of such they cannot truly care for God’s people or God’s creation no matter how much they may try. If one of God’s people becomes sick and can’t pay them what is owed, they become like the unmerciful servant in Matt.18:28-35 and demand payment, after all that business isn’t it. Compassion to the possessed is viewed as weakness. On the one side they like to think of themselves as environmentalist yet creation actually is only a resource they use to get more and more.
Jesus offers freedom for those who are so possessed with their possessions to the extent they cannot have a relationship with God, His people or creation. He at first says in Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” In order words, don’t be afraid. Let it all go. Let God deliver you and set you free. Then He goes on and tells us how to experience this freedom. It is so simple that the possessed often refuse to believe it. Jesus declares in verse 33, 34, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Only as we take literally the words of Jesus, and let Him deliver us from our addictions to work, can we be set free to have a true relationship with God, His people and the rest of creation.
As redeemed children of God we have been entrusted with His creation to manage for His glory (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 8:6-8, Genesis 2:15). We are called to be Earth Keepers, earth’s stewards, and protectors. We must answer to Him for our faithfulness in this calling. As we study the scriptures we see that when the seventh trumpet is blown, “the time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great for destroying those who destroy the earth”(Rev.11:18). This message of being a good steward of all that God has created and entrusted to us is repeated throughout the scriptures. (See Luke 12:42-48; 19:12-27; 20:9-18; Leviticus 25:3-5, 14-17 etc.) Jesus completely identifies with those powerless people that are most likely to be mistreated in His creation when he describes events at the last judgment in Matt.25:31-46 and declares, “As often as you have done it to the least of these even so you have done it unto me.” Rosemary Ruether explains,
“The environmental movement needs to be more than saving seals and defending public parks from lumber companies, although these are worthy causes. It needs to speak of environmental racism and classism, about the poisoning of the environments, where poor black, Latinos and indigenous people live in inner cities and rural areas. By dumping their toxic wastes in these areas, companies maximize their profits while passing along the costs to those assumed to be the most powerless. An environmental movement that does not make these connections across class and racial lives is escapism for hikers and not a serious call for change. The redeemed can no longer remain silent as countries like Africa are turned into toxic dumps for rich industrialized nations.”
Wesley Granberg Michaelson states,
“The urgency of the environmental crisis, the rise of green politics and the commitment to save the earth plead for an understanding of how economic life can be molded by ecological wisdom to sustain creation.”
Jeremy and Carol Rifkin go on to explain that,
“Judeo-Christian stewards are committed to a sustainable society in which the production and consumption of goods and services are made compatible with the earth’s ability to recycle wastes and stocks. A sustainable economy relies on appropriate technologies and production processes that sustain, rather than drain, the ecosystems from which all economic activity is extracted. In a sustainable economy, the rights of present and future generations, the needs of all our creatures, and the health and well-being of the Living Earth take precedence over the short-term whims and caprices of the marketplace and the self-interest of a privileged few.”
The time has come for us to recognize that Biblical justice is based on the deeper principal that equitable sharing of the earth’s resources stems from the fact that God is the source of all and desires His love to be shared with all. Every human being regardless of economic status is granted by our Creator with the right to pure air and water, adequate food and shelter that is uncontaminated and habitable, adequate energy resources, adequate clothing and health care with meaningful work that protects and preserves creation from which we draw our well-being. As the Psalmist proclaims, “The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”(Psalm 145:13-16)
As we try to understand the Lord’s faithfulness in the provision of creation and our role as faithful stewards Ron Sider points out that
“The environmental crisis is not a silly fiction created by mad scientists and political demagogues. There are dangerous holes in the ozone layer. Our water, soil, and air are polluted. Spreading carbon dioxide emissions from our cars and factories threaten to cause global warming that could raise ocean levels, flooding vast land areas and destroying some of our great coastal cities. In the last forty years, we have lost one-third of our rain forests. In the last forty years, we also have lost one-fifth of the entire world’s topsoil. Make no mistake: a spiritual battle is raging; Satan would love nothing better than to persuade modern people that the best way to solve our environmental crisis is to abandon historic Christian truth. The way to defeat Satan is for all Christians to become committed environmentalists and to ground their struggle to save the earth on solid Biblical foundations. To be honest with you, I don’t know how to plead with Christians forcefully enough to reject today’s affluent materialism. We have Jesus warning that if we don’t feed the hungry we go to hell. We pastors and teachers have the Biblical warning that if we fail to say as much about God’s concern for the poor as the Bible does, we are heretical, timid shepherds, responsible for our people’s materialism. We could do so much more. And I fear that we are losing the battle. Is it not true that most Christians today are more trapped in a practical materialism that treasures things more than Jesus? Were previous generations of Christians as captivated by materialism, as we are now? It would be especially hypocritical if we condemned New Age environmentalists for their worship of the earth and then continued rushing madly down our present path of ever increasing, idolatrous consumerism!”
Ron Sider goes on to say in his work, Tending the Garden Without Worshiping It,
“I’m afraid that one reason Christians fail to live more simply for the sake of the poor and the environment is one reason we persist in our practical materialistic worship of things is that we don’t really love Jesus very much. We substitute lukewarm faith and more tradition for a passionate love for the Lord and a radical commitment to worship and to obey Him at any cost. Colossians 1:18 says, Jesus is to have the supremacy. Is that true for you and me? Is that true for our people? This Jesus who calls us to save His creation, empower the poor, and work for peace is the Maker of the galaxies, the one in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. This awesome sovereign will not settle for one-fourth or one-half of our lives. He wants to have first place in everything we think and do.”
Does He have first place in your life? Is Jesus Christ your Lord and your Savior? Have you dedicated your life to serving Jesus by caring for His people and His creation according to the word of God? If so what are the results? The hour is late and now we must realize the reality of Jesus words when He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt.6:24).
Who do you want to spend the rest of your life serving? If it is God than let Him work through you now to start caring for hurting people and His creation.
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