Last week the Chinese confronted President-elect Donald Trump about his comments four years ago that they had created the hoax global warming. Christians have been fighting among themselves and with the larger culture about global warming and other environmental concerns for much longer than four years. It is all too easy for us to be blinded by our political preconceptions. Instead, as we have been attempting to do all along in this series on Life in These United States, let’s see what God has to say in the Bible.
What are the biblical passages and theological principles that we could apply to our world, and how we live in our world?
First of all, we learn that God is creator and owner of the world. We first see this way back on page 1 of the Bible, Genesis 1. There we read that God created everything, and he says it is good! Seven times, as he creates the universe, he says it is good, including a final review of all he made and he says it was very good!
Another wonderful passage that describes God’s creation is Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”
So the first principle we see in Scripture is that God not only created the world, and he calls it good, but also he reminds us that he is the owner of the world.
Second, God not only created, but he is still actively involved in his creation.
In Genesis 9:1-17 we see a momentous covenant that God makes between himself and his people. The story in Genesis 9 describes the aftermath of the flood that Noah and his family, and all the animals in their massive boat, survived. God approaches Noah to make a covenant. This covenant extends well beyond just one family. In this covenant you see the extremely personal way that God interacts with his creation, sustaining and preserving it.
Likewise the future picture revealed in Revelation 4:11 is also a good reminder to us: “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
In the same manner, look at Numbers 35:33-35, where God tells the nation of Israel, “Don’t pollute and defile the land.” God is speaking spiritually here, not wanting the Israelites to pollute the land with sin. Within that instruction he is also clearly saying that he lives in the land with them. Thus he wants them to behave in the land using his method, not theirs.
Let’s summarize what we have seen so far. God created the world, and it is very good. He owns the world and is deeply involved in sustaining and even living in the world. This is in contradistinction to the idea that some people have of God, an idea that after he created the world, he has been hands off. They feel he set it in motion and now is sitting back watching what we will do. But that is not what we just read. No doubt about it, God does allow us a lot of leeway. We call it free will. He does allow us to choose how we will live on this planet.
And that is where we are heading next. Yes, God created the world and continues to be very involved in it, but he also invites us to join him in caring for it.
That is the next main point. We are called to Steward Creation.
Going back to Genesis 1, remember what God said in verse 28? We are to rule over creation. But God explains this further a few verses later. Look at Genesis 2:15. In the garden, he told Adam and Eve to work it and keep it. You know that means? Piece this together with the first two points we have looked at so far.
This means that it wasn’t their garden. It was God’s garden. God created it, God created them, and he placed them in the garden to care for it according to His wishes. As owner of the garden, God has the say in how it is to be treated. Adam and Eve didn’t get the say. They were stewards and had to treat the garden like God instructed them.
That’s what a steward does. The steward doesn’t own the thing over which they steward. The owner owns it. And the owner decides how the steward is to treat it. In our case we are talking about the earth. God owns the earth, and he gets to be the one who decides how it is to be used. As Christians we need to see ourselves, then, as stewards of God’s creation. It is incredibly important that we find out how God wants his creation to be treated. Once we find out how he wants it to be treated, then we should treat his creation that way.
And if we don’t? Well Rev. 11:18 has a significant warning for us. There will be a day when God says that he will destroy the destroyers of the earth. Doesn’t sound like a situation that a person would want to be in, does it? I don’t want to be anywhere near that.
You know what this tells me loud and clear? Christians should lead the way in creation care.
We should practice creation care. We should advocate for creation care. Creation care should be a priority. In a moment we’re going to suggest some practical steps. But before we get to applying this to our lives, let’s consider one more aspect of creation care that often comes up.
If creation care is so important to God, why has there been push-back against those in our society who are not from a Christian perspective but who are also trying to care for the earth?
We need to be careful about this. We want to protect endangered species, but we don’t want to idolize them. It is great to see the resurgence of the bald eagle for example. In my childhood in the 1980s, bald eagles were endangered, super rare. Seeing them at a zoo was a big deal. Now? They’re back, and here in Lancaster County. But do we want to protect them to the point where they become a menace and start picking off free range chickens? There needs to be balance.
Take the Chesapeake Bay. We want to keep it as clean as possible. But should we put restrictions on farmers to the point where it is financially impossible for them to farm because the cost of handling run-off is too much?
What we see is that there can be complexities in the vast and varied domain of creation care. It is a huge planet. And there is much disagreement about what is the right thing to do.
I found this comic that makes a good point.
In our day and age there is no doubt that creating a better world, caring for God’s creation, is a lot of work, and it might mean that some people think we are taking it too far. But if being a good steward of God’s creation means that some people disagree with us or make fun of us, then so be it. I would rather God see me as his faithful steward even if that means taking heat from people who think that caring for creation is no big deal. I would rather work hard on making our world a better place, even if we find out that global warming is a hoax.
Furthermore, Stewardship of creation is connected to stewardship of our finances.
High mileage cars not only use less fossil fuel, but also save you on the cost of gas. My parents recently got a new car and gave us their old one. The car they gave us is a hybrid and it gets crazy good gas mileage. I love that.
Another example is solar energy. It is not only unlimited, clean, but can also save you on electric bills. When we replace the roof on the church in the next few years, wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to get solar panels? Or maybe the new Tesla solar shingles, connected to one of their batteries, so that we can run our facility on our own energy!
Another thing I am so thankful for is that we were able to put a wood stove in our house a few years ago. Wood heat is renewable, and if you’re willing to do some work, you can often get it free. Not to mention all the splitting and stacking and carrying is great exercise.
In all these examples, and many others, creation care helps not only the earth, but also your bank account. The problem is that there are plenty of ways to live cheap that might make it seem like we are being good stewards of our bank accounts, though at the same time we are not being good stewards of creation.
Can I tell you how many coffee makers Michelle and I have been through over the years? I’ve lost count. You know what we do? If the coffee maker breaks, we trash it and go buy a new one for $20. How many of you do this with phones, TVs, computers, gadgets, and clothes?
You know what they used to do years ago? Fix things. Sew clothes.
But now, we are called the disposable generation. Many industries build obsolescence into products so we need to get new ones every year. Small appliances. Fashion. I urge you to jump over and visit The Story of Stuff. Their first video of the same name is ten years old, but the message is just as powerful as it was then. Since that time, the Story of Stuff people have created numerous other videos that make a wonderful argument about how we can be good stewards of creation. Take a look at The Story of Bottled Water, for example!
Bottled water might not seem like a big deal, but where do all those bottles go? They get disposed and pile up, along with all of our other mountains of garbage. One of the ways to combat the disposable generation, and the piling up of junk and garbage on our planet is Recycling.
Have you ever wondered what actually happens to our local recycling? Does it get used again? I’d like to feature a few local companies and how they approach recycling.
I was out jogging the other morning, following the Eagle recycling truck. I was surprised to watch the workers dump the entire contents of recycling bins into the back of a regular garbage truck and smash the recyclables together! I was especially surprised because I am an Eagle customer! I have also seen the Good’s Disposal recycling truck and it has a whole bunch of compartments that recyclables are divided into. My pessimistic, skeptical side saw that and thought “We Eagle customers are being scammed. The Good’s people are actually doing recycling!”
So I called my company, Eagle, to ask about this. I started off by asking a very general question about how they handle recyclables. Because of my detective work that other morning, I already knew what was happening in my neighborhood, and I wanted to catch them in a lie. But they told me that all my recyclables are dumped into one truck and smashed together, exactly like I had seen. “So then what?” I asked. The rep told me that those compacted recyclables are taken back to Eagle’s main facility, where they are dumped into a large truck. An 18 wheeler. They are then taken to the recycling company, owned by Penn Waste. “So what does Penn Waste do with them?” The rep didn’t know, and said I would have to contact Penn Waste.
What I found out about Penn Waste blew me away. See for yourself!
Actually, during my research, I learned that through Eagle and Penn Waste, I could be recycling a lot more than I currently do. That convicted me, and rightly so. It used to be that you could only recycle #1 -2 plastics. Now they take #1-7. And there are many more items they recycle. Please check your garbage haulers’ recycling guidelines as things have improved in the last few years. I had not been paying attention.
I also called Good’s Disposal to see how they handled recyclables. Faith Church uses Goods, and I found out they have different guidelines. On their website, they say “Our goal in PA is to recycle 33% of the waste stream. This effort will save land, trees, and materials for the next generation.” That sounds great but they only recycle #1-2 plastics. So it would seem to me that a good steward of God’s creation would choose a trash hauler that has the most recycling options available.
Another recycling option that is very convenient here in Lancaster (and many other places) is recycling your Styrofoam. Locally Dart Container has two Styrofoam drop-off sheds, one at their Leola facility, and one at the Pitney Road facility. Here at Faith Church, we have a Styrofoam recycling trashcan in the fellowship hall, the can with the hole in the lid. No other trash should go in there (but somehow it does…). The other trashcans in the fellowship hall are for other trash.
But there is more. You can save up your Styrofoam, with the #6 on it, and bring it in to the trashcan in the church fellowship hall. And our Faith Church family who work at Dart will take it to the shed for you! That’s what we do at my home. We save up our Chick-fil-a cups, and our chicken trays, and all our Styrofoam and bring it in to the church or drop it off in one of the sheds. As God’s stewards of his creation, none of us should ever have a reason throw Styrofoam in our trash!
Another way that Faith Church is caring for God’s creation is through Adopt-a-Highway. The Rock martial arts ministry that meets here on Monday nights cleans the two mile stretch of Old Philly Pike from Horseshoe Road to Mill Creek Road for us a couple times per year. Isn’t that awesome? There are so many more roadways that need to be adopted. Would you look into your group joining the effort and cleaning a road near you?
How else could a church family care for God’s creation? How can you practice being a steward of God’s creation? Protect the sanctity of parks, preserve farms. And get out into nature. Rip yourself away from the screens and see nature with your own two eyes. Go on hikes. Run. Walk. Ride bikes. Enjoy it. See God in it. Garden. But local produce and meat. There are so many ways to care for creation.
In closing, hear the amazing words of Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”