For the past few years, I have been a student of environmental issues, more specifically reducing our trash by means of reducing, reusing and recycling. Have I found a way to make a living doing this or somehow related? Nope, but without a doubt, this is the cause that God has called me to. I have felt closer to Him than I ever have and whenever I sit down to work on an upcycling project, there is a certain calmness that settles over me.
The idea that even something ordinary, discarded, unwanted, even ugly can change into something beautiful, useful or both is an idea that keeps me going even when all seems lost and hopeless. We see it all the time in nature with butterflies, the different seasons where trees are losing their leaves, go to sleep and then wake up refreshed and flourishing, or a seed germinating to make a beautiful flower or something yummy to eat.
We all are ordinary, unfinished, inadequate, but that doesn’t mean God can’t use us and give us purpose.
For years, I struggled with my relationship with God. I couldn’t understand or even connect with Him in any meaningful way and it frustrated me, which distanced me even more.
Through the years, I have come to believe that God is not a one size fits all kind of God. I believe He made us all unique and that means He presents Himself to us in different ways- He meets where we are, He doesn’t force us to fit ourselves in a box to have a relationship with Him. He gives us different strengths, passions, gifts, even weaknesses and struggles, which all serve the ultimate purpose of bringing glory to Him and helping others find Him, all in different ways.
He gave me this passion at a time when I was so lost and cared about absolutely nothing. I was depressed and broken- all I wanted was to quit school, lock myself in my room and sleep until the end of time. God doesn’t want that for His people. He wants them to be engaged, alive and compassionate. He gave me something that could get a hold my attention, wake me up and fight for the unspoken for.
The only problem is I have failed to be able to connect this passion with the church. Of all, people I would think, Christians would care about the environment. After all, they believe God gave us the Earth and there are many scriptures telling us to be good stewards of what He gave us. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but when I have brought up this subject in a church setting it’s usually met with a kind of annoyance or shrugged off as unimportant. I’ve never heard any sermons on this subject either.
Disclaimer: No, I’m not saying that everyone should stop counseling a woman going through a terrible divorce and sit down, cut up some plarn and crochet a market bag. Nor am I saying that if you’re having 80 people over to make food for the homeless, you should use real plates and silverware instead of the paper plates. I’m also not saying everyone should be as completely gung ho about the environment and do it 100 percent of the time. All I’m asking is a for a little more consideration in our choices and how they affect our fellow humans. And of course, all of this from my experience, what people have told me and my personal beliefs. All of it could be wrong and some one from another walk of life will see it completely different. There are plenty of Christians working on these kinds of issues, so I will probably work on a part 2 and add these solutions along with any relevant feedback I get from this post.
As Christians, I think we should support each other’s God given causes. Why does it seem, we are so narrow minded and have tunnel vision when it comes to what is classified as God’s work?
God gave us the Earth and said 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
This verse is where a lot of the controversy comes in. God says we should multiply and subdue the Earth, but in Genesis 2:15, God says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
God created the Earth, the animals and then He created humans to take care of these things. His creation wasn’t complete until He made man but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care for His creations. Subdue does not mean use until there is nothing left. It means do what you have to, to ensure your safety, make it livable, but take care of it. God expected man to use the products of nature for his sustenance, but also to be responsible in that use and to preserve the life-giving systems and creatures of the creation.
In God’s Covenant with Noah, He tells Noah to multiply, He gives Noah every living and moving as food to eat, but He also makes a promise to Noah and every living thing that he will not to flood the Earth again. He makes the promise to Noah and every living thing on that boat because he cares not only for the humans, whom He made in His image, but for His creations that He made for humans to enjoy and care for.
In Leviticus 25:8, He gives the people 6 years to harvest, but calls for the 7th year to be a year of rest for the land. This was so important to God that He punished Israel for not keeping the land Sabbaths. There are many things that God commands or requires of us that don’t always make sense in the direct ways, but indirectly, they are for our good. Many people know harvesting the same crop on the same land for too many years will deplete the land of its nutrients. Not only did He want us to care for the land, but he knew that it made sense to let it rest, so it could continue to supply with nutritious food.
He continues this call to care for the land.
Leviticus 25:23-24 says: 23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. 24 Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.”
The land is ultimately His and we are the caretakers.
Numbers 35:33-34 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”
This represents a point a preacher acquaintance of mine made: All is sacred. The earth is a footstool for His feet. He dwells here. As some Christians take nice care of their churches because it’s His house…in all honestly He dwells everywhere so we take care of everything like He is right here with us.
This theme that the land is God’s is continued to the New Testament.
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
As the psalmist indicated in Psalm 147, He cares for nature. He has given all the stars names and he feeds the cows when they call. God pays attention to the life and death of even a sparrow Luke 12:6.If God cares so much about nature, we must too.
But also God does not want us defiling the land. We could take this literally and say defiling it with blood from the people we’ve murdered, but so many of our choices have consequences we will never know about.
Matthew 25:37-40‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
The electronics industry always comes to mind when I think of this. From the time the materials are mined, to the when they are built in the factories until we throw them away or recycle them, electronics are a human rights and environmental nightmare.
Many, if not all, electronics are made in factories that use child labor and workers that have to work impossible hours at ridiculously low wages. Many of the product lines have leukemia causing substances like benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic and radioactive material. In addition to hazardous working conditions, medical services are not covered through these companies.
Not only do these company use sub par conditions to make the electronics, but they also have to mine for these materials. Commonly used materials are copper, cobalt and coltan and children between 5 and 14 are commonly used in these mines. The numerous health risks associated with mining these materials are why the UN’s International Labor Organization called mining one of the worst forms of child labor.
This woman lost her hands making LG flat screens, which shed her blood, I’m sure, but she can’t work and she was never paid a decent wage, so she could save money. Unless, she wins the law suit, her life is basically over. There are many other people who have lost their lives as a direct result of our greed and overconsumption.
Once, we are done with our electronics, many of them go back to these countries. The problem is the the numerous toxic materials leach into the water, ground and air, which contribute to the health problems in these countries.
As Christians, are we not responsible to love those people, to live simply so they might simply live. These people, especially in the factories, never have time to sit down to look at their Facebook, let alone have time to sit down at a sermon to hear about the love of Jesus. Instead of the hope of Jesus, their only hope is that someday they might win the lottery.
Christians, along with the rest of the first world, are responsible for that, but as Christians, do we not have a responsibility to give up some of our worldly possessions and conveniences, so that these people will be treated properly. We can’t possibly say that we care for our fellow man, when are responsible for funding the industry that treats them that way. We don’t need to give up these things, as they have many benefits even in the church, but prioritize, use what we have or used, or support companies with sustainable practices when we need to buy something new. We could argue that our overconsumption gives them jobs, so they earn roughly $130, but if we rewired our brains, there are so many other ways we could help them. We are not doing them a favor by letting them make our electronics or other products. If we vote with our dollars, which is a economic concept proven over and over, these companies have to listen. After all, we pay their bills.
If we are spending so much time loving and serving God that we can’t even give a second thought toward God’s creations, why do we have time for all these things anyway?
There seems to be two major reasons, for the apathetic or impervious attitudes Christians seem to have when it comes to God’s creations. I set out to find out why this is so.
- Ultimately, if Christ is coming to get us, and if God is in control, why should we worry at all about the state of the environment?
In that case, why care about anything at all? Why have a nice car, nice clothes, a cell phone, a tablet, dessert, anything? Why bother saving money or investing in the future? Because it helps US in THIS life? Makes it livable and more comfortable? What about the future of others- do they not deserve the same opportunities? Our reward for fighting the good fight is not on this Earth, but we have to care for our fellow humans and future generations.
2 Thessalonians 3:6, 13
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat. 11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
In this case, he is arguing that they shouldn’t be idle in the sense of general wrong doings. But the same case could be made for caring for the Earth.
As my pastor acquaintance mentioned earlier: The earth is a footstool for His feet. As some Christians take nice care of their churches because it’s His house, but He dwells everywhere.
Acts 17:24 says “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.”
No human made temple can possibly hold Him because He made everything and He was insulted that we ever believed we could.
2. People/other issues are more important.
To me this is the argument that makes the most sense, but it makes me sad to think how many people are completely missing the point.
Why put a mere second thought in the actions we have on the environment when people are going through divorces, are suffering from multiple forms of abuse, drug addictions, etc? Our first, primary concern should be addressing those sins that directly effect us before moving on to less critical concerns. I get it.
Most people, both Christians and nonchristians, seem to believe absolutely, people come first. Christians hold this position more because they believe people were made in God’s image and we have a soul. Non-Christians seem to believe because of our superior intellect we are more valuable.
Although, I can see how people think this kind of thought process relieves them of their duty of caring for God’s other, ‘less significant’ creations, I think its an even sadder reason to not do everything you can to save your fellow humans. Many, if not all, environmental issues are human rights issues.
One person pointed out that environmentalists and Christians are usually in conflict because they are too polarized. One spends too much time focusing on the environment, while the other focuses only on people. There are many reasons for this supposed polarization, but when it came down to it, they would rather focus on a fellow human, made in God’s image, therefore must be more important, than an the creation. If they were too focused on the creation to care for that sick (physically or mentally) person then they wouldn’t be comfortable with their priorities.
All this is completely understandable, however, my question is if air pollution, poor working conditions, unclean drinking water caused this person you cared so much for to be sick, would you consider your priorities out of whack then? If someone died before they could learn about God because of those issues would it be different? Many times this is the case. The food we eat, the things we drink, the air we breathe all impact our health, so one could argue that if we put more concern into the environment, they might not even be sick in the first place.
If they are so busy working in a factory, sleeping there, eating there, dying there that they they never get a chance to even know there is a church outside the walls of that factory, would we care then?
Then of course, there are those, who believe Christians shouldn’t be the example for the environment or anything for that matter. They should just keep doing what they are doing with no care as to what their life says to others. Why should they care when no one else does?
Christians are supposed to bring and show God’s love to the world. How can we do that if we are just like them? Just as dark, corrupt and uncaring? It’s not supposed to be easy, but we are supposed to be different, so we can bring change to those who need it. Yes, Christians are human. They make mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop them from trying to do their best. When you decide to claim a title, its imperative that you carry that out as best you can. The witness against you is always stronger than it will ever be with you. People are always looking for a reason to tear you down. They could argue that if Christians, the group that believes without a doubt in a God that gave His life to save humanity, and He also gave humanity the gift of His creation and they abuse it the way they do, then why should anyone care? What does that say about the respect for God or the things He gave us?
God created the Earth, the animals and then He created humans to take care of these things. His creation wasn’t complete until He made man but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care for His creations. God expected man to use the products of nature for his sustenance, but also to be responsible in that use and to preserve the life-giving systems and creatures of the creation.
Imagine a father, who worked day and night to make his daughter a beautiful rocking horse for her birthday. He sanded every splinter, took care to glue in every piece of hair, and perfectly shape the handles to fit her hands. As a little girl, she loved that rocking horse, it was one of her only toys, but as she grew up she played on it less and less. Maybe she got it dirty or she chipped pieces off when she wasn’t careful enough climbing on to it or she was throwing her toys around and accidentally hit it. Maybe one day, she comes home and she needs wood for a project, so she takes the wood from the rocking horse to use. Her then older father comes home, sees what she has done and it breaks his heart. Of course, he loves his daughter and knows she has grown up since he put all that work in to make such a beautiful gift, but did he want her to respect his gift more than she would a scrap piece of wood? Probably so.
Of course, as you read earlier, it is much more serious than that. People’s lives and souls are at stake.
But again, I’m not saying you have to change your whole way of life, inconveniencing yourself, so you can’t spend as much time focusing on the path that God has called you. All I am asking to consider, just for a few minutes, that a simpler life, so that your fellow human can live, might not be such a bad thing. Accept and respect that people, who might or might not be Christians, are doing the work of God by caring for His creation. Yes, like any religious ideal, this can be corrupted. Just because they say God gave them a calling doesn’t make it so, but just because its an unconventional way of seeing things doesn’t make it wrong either. We need to use discernment for these things. Obviously, people sterilizing their fellow humans is not an ethical or Christian thing to do and I’m not supporting that. However, a fellow Christian who is has the purpose of taking care of God’s creation (which we all are created by God, so let’s keep that in mind) then who are to say we have a better or more important calling.
I somewhat apologize for my long windedness. It’s a complex issue and something I probably have spent too much time letting it eat away at me, instead of talking about it. I welcome any thoughts or feelings you have on this subject, so please leave a comment below!