I remember sitting in the back of a car traveling through the mountains of Bolivia when my driver, a professing Christian, finished his yogurt snack and chucked the empty yogurt container out of his window. I was appalled! How could someone blatantly litter and not feel guilty? I wanted to ask him if he thought that plastic container would just mysteriously melt in the sun??? Or remind him that basic science has discovered that it will take his plastic container 450 years to decompose!
As much as I would have loved to step into the mind of that man who littered to understand why he did it, I couldn’t. So as I have thought about it, I have dissected my feelings and come up with four basic thoughts as to why littering, and what that man did that day, repels me.
- The earth is beautiful and trash makes it ugly.
- Why should someone else have to clean up after me?
- Littering seems irresponsible, disrespectful and careless.
- God demands stewardship, including my care of creation.
In an attempt to find answers to my thoughts I will turn to the Bible for wisdom. The question that I think sums up my feelings is this: Is there a specific responsibility that God has granted humans in regards to creation?
Here is what I found:
1) God loves what he has created and it brings him praise.
In the creation story in Genesis, as God surveys each thing that he makes, He declares, “It is good.”
The Bible also affirms in Psalm 150 that all of creation, “everything that has breath, praises the Lord.”
It seems that humans, animals, landscapes, oceans, wind, lightning, fire… all of it…uniquely reflects God’s creative touch and points back to Him giving Him glory.
So, if all of creation was made good and meant to bring praises to God than is my polluting the earth and defacing its beauty against God’s standards?? It seems to me it is.
2) Humans are to be responsible stewards
Stewardship, as I best see it, is a way of living that recognizes that everything belongs to God. Psalms 24:1, states: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.”
In what I read it seems that how we treat creation, a gift from God, correlates directly with our gratefulness and respect of God. If you are thankful for something or someone you will treat it with respect.
If I throw trash on the ground with no intentions of picking it up I am not only disrespecting the person that ultimately collects it but also showing God that I am ungrateful for the beautiful earth he has provided for me to live in. It means so little to me that I don’t care how it looks or how clean it is.
3) Humans have a specific role
In the Garden of Eden humans were given a specific job description: to work and take care of creation. Simply put: to serve and keep it. It was their first job and a command that has never been revoked.
My driver that day in Bolivia was not caring for creation. He was not doing his job, and that plastic container left on the ground was testifying to it.
4) Jesus died to reconcile it.
Jesus did not come to reconcile sinners alone, but to reconcile ALL things back to himself (Col. 1:15-23). In this set of verses Paul is clearly talking about the whole of creation, everything in it, not just human beings. He says “all creation” in verse 15 and then uses the phrase, “all things in heaven and earth” in verse 16. Though at times our temptation may be to narrow the work of Jesus on the cross as solely a redemption of sinning souls, Paul displays a more comprehensive redemption that includes humans and ALL of creation, everything in heaven and earth. So, it seems that our care for creation is motivated not only by the fact that it was created by God and he has commanded us to care for it, but also that Christ shed his blood on the cross to reconcile it.
I am sure that much more could be said, but from my brief study I see that God does have a specific role for humans in regards to creation. It seems to be one of caring, stewarding and joining creation in bringing praise to God. Have you thought about this principle before? What ideas have you come across in your study of this concept?
I find it hard sometimes to wrap my head around what the Garden of Eden, a perfect sinless creation, must have looked like. However, it had to have been beautiful because I feel like I see glimpses of it in sunsets, flowers, thunderheads and cascading waterfalls. I also know that God declared it “good” and didn’t forget it with his death on the cross.
In the United States littering isn’t as big of a problem. However, as we do take time to reflect on the question of whether we are really caring for creation as God intended, we can all find areas where we can improve. This earth day, I challenge you to think again about what it means to be a steward of God’s creation. http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/coastal/trash/documents/marine_debris.pdf Image courtesy of Chin / Flickr.com