(this was originally posted on Kelly’s blog)
James tells us in the first verse of the third chapter of his epistle Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. That is pretty serious stuff. What James doesn’t mention about teaching others is often you end up learning more than your students. If you take your calling seriously and seek the Lord in your teaching, preparing becomes a time of great discovery…solidifying things you already believe or searching the heart of God on things you have never really thought or cared about before. The latter describes my experience this week.
Currently, I have the great joy of co-leading a group of amazing Jesus girls through The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker. I have loved it. The basic premise of the book is that we live lives of excess that rob us of Jesus…seeing Him, experiencing Him, trusting Him, knowing Him. So, we are practicing a fast of sorts in seven areas of our lives to create margin for God.
I knew going into it the fast with least impact for me would be waste week, which is all about the environment. I would say that I went into the study this week fairly open minded. We are probably an average family with regards to our treatment of the environment. We recycle cans and bottles, use the energy saver cycle on the dishwasher and try to remember to turn off the water while we are brushing our teeth. I think those are good things, but I am certainly not trying to save the earth or anything. In the study, Jen makes “creation care” an issue of stewardship and obedience unto the Lord. I am not buying it. And while I wasn’t tracking with Jen’s argument, I had never really searched out the issue in Scripture for myself.
Most of my disagreement with Jen’s assertion that this is an issue of obedience or stewardship was her basis that we will run out of the gifts of the earth. I can’t argue whether or not we have a consumption problem; we do (that’s pretty much the reason we are doing 7…). My problem became the idea that we can do anything that will keep God from being true to His Word. In Matthew 6, Jesus tell us:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
God will provide for our needs. He always will. I can’t change that. America’s vast over consumption can’t change that. God sent manna from heaven and the rocks burst forth water at His command. I think we are good. He will take care of us. Today has too much trouble of its own to take on tomorrow’s worries. (Side note – notice Who claims responsibility for fully caring for the earth. Jesus pretty much says that is the Father’s job.)
Also, we have to remember that saving the earth is contrary to how we know the story ends. My fabulous co-leader, Tammy, showed me this quote from GotQuestions?org yesterday:
There is nothing wrong with Christians being involved in a conscious effort to appreciate and even preserve God’s wonderful creation. But any effort directed at preserving the planet forever runs counter to God’s revealed plan. He tells us in 2 Peter 3:10 that at the end of the age, the earth and all He has created will be destroyed with fire. The physical, natural earth in its present form, along with the entire universe, will be consumed, and God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13;Revelation 21:1)
(remember that last part – I will get back to it in a minute) God has a plan that includes blowing this place up in a way that will make Hollywood green (ha!) with envy. Any efforts on our part to save the earth will wind up all being for naught.
We are told that the earth is a gift from God in Psalm 115:15. This is where we must consider the word or idea of steward. I believe inherent in the word steward is an expectation of return. This belief comes from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. In Jesus’ story, a master hands out talents (coins) to three servants and then goes away on business. When the master returns, he asks about the talents. Two of the servants have doubled what they were given. They are called good and faithful. The third servant buried his money. He preserved it. The master is furious with him. God is our master, and He expects a kingdom return on what He invests in us. I consider a kingdom return an increase in breadth or depth of the kingdom of God, either you have added numbers or you have grown those who are already His. If you choose to spend your efforts preserving what you have been given or chasing after a cause with no kingdom return, I fear a furious Master. I saw a tweet today that said even good things can become bad things when they take the place of the best. I feel like that is where we can get stuck. Reducing, recycling and reusing are good things but without considering how they increase the kingdom, they are not God’s best. Now if you can make saving the earth into a ministry, PLEASE DO! Jen gives a great example in 7 (the book, not the workbook) of a group in Austin who use gardening to provide food and money for homeless men and women willing to work in the gardens. Kingdom return.
Let’s consider God’s words to Adam about the garden, which is where obedience becomes relevant. In Genesis 2:15, we are told that God placed Adam in the garden to work it, which is a good thing. What’s interesting is His actual instructions to Adam recorded in Scripture are this:
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.” Genesis 1:28
See that word subdue? It is an interesting Hebrew word that means to tread down, to conquer, subjugate, violate, bring into bondage or force. Actually, you probably have heard the word before. It’s kabash (like he put the kabash on that idea). Interesting. Scripture never tells us to take care of the earth the way we might assume. Obviously, the original language here doesn’t. I don’t even see creation care as consistent with God’s character. He pretty much uses nature at will and often in response to the crown of His creation…us. I think of the story of Jonah where God creates a tree to give Jonah shade, but then Jonah is a brat so God kills the tree. Maybe creation care is something we should do, but it is not something we must do.
Having said all of that, I decided I really just needed to listen to Jesus on the subject (unfortunately, I went this route after our Bible study discussion on the matter – lesson learned). I spent some time in prayer during a sleepless night asking the Lord to explain His heart on this issue to me because, honestly, I never want to be right more than I want to God’s. I am willing to concede if He stands on the other side of an issue. Humility is not fun, but it is my friend.
So my thoughts…which I believe have been refined by God.
Sin is bigger than we understand. In the garden, when God created everything and called it good, it was. And then we sinned. We call chapter 3 in Genesis the Fall…which is not from Scripture but, technically, the term refers to falling from the goodness God created us and the earth with. Something broke between God and His creation when we sinned. After the Fall, apart from Christ there is no good in us. That is true of the earth as well. We see in Genesis 3:17 the earth being cursed because of our sin. The beautiful thing about brokenness is and always will be Christ. He restores brokenness. In Colossians 1, we are told Jesus reconciles all things unto Himself, which means He restores our goodness and the perfection of the garden. Praise God, for us that happens when we come into relationship with Him and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Unfortunately for the earth, until there is no more sin, it will remain cursed. The good news is there will come a time when righteousness will reign. God will create a new heavens and a new earth. 2 Peter 3:13 says But based on His promise, we wait for the new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell. Jesus will reconcile the earth to Himself by making a new creation just like He does with us when we become Christ’s. The truth is…we can’t save the earth anymore than we can save ourselves.
Please recycle. It’s just nice. Conserving and preserving are good things to do…but remember, as with most things, God has this one under control. So no worries.