Rachel is a missionary in Tanzania who after reading Our Father’s World sent the following plea to her friends and supporting church back ‘home’ in the US. She’s given me permission to share this with you:
The time I’ve spent living in Tanzania has helped me to appreciate many things that I used to take for granted. 58% of the population of Tanzania lives on less than $1 per day. Although I often don’t feel rich, I am very rich by comparison. Many things (running water, washing machines and dryers, cars, electricity, refrigerators, ovens, microwaves and computers for example) that Americans expect and accept as the norm simply aren’t an option for the majority of Tanzanians, or the rest of the world. Most Americans have been born into a situation where our daily needs are met and greatly exceeded. The things we have been given are not rights, but privileges. Now, I am not suggesting that we need to feel guilty for being born in the United States or for having our daily needs met. Instead I am suggesting that we should be thankful to God for everything he has given us, and that we should live out that thanks by being good stewards of what we have been given.
God has provided us with a beautiful world to live in. He has carefully crafted every detail so that His creation can live in harmony. He reveals Himself to us through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit, but also through the beauty of creation. Many things that we do as humans can destroy that creation. It is easy to see this destruction in countries like Tanzania where trash is thrown into the streets and plastic bags clog streams making the sanitation problems even worse. However, problems also exist in the United States, they are just not as visible in our daily lives because we tuck them away in landfills and the like. This destruction is because of broken relationships with God, with others and with the world we live in and is a result of sin. Our job as Christians is to work to restore those broken relationships. God has entrusted us to care for His creation. He has given us the privilege of ruling over it, not as self-seeking and corrupt dictators, but as stewards who want to do the best we can for the glory of the creator. My question is this: Are we doing all that we can do to appreciate and take care of this gift that God has given us?
Many Christians don’t have a positive view of environmentalists, thinking of them as “tree huggers” and “fanatics” and assuming that they would rather save the spotted owl than help their neighbor. Extreme environmentalism that ignores the needs of humans and the presence of a creator is not what I am advocating. In fact, it is quite the opposite of what I am suggesting. I believe that because we are Christians who know that God created the heavens and the earth, we should be more excited about and willing to care for that gift than people who are not believers. Christians should be leading the pack in trying to take care of what God has given us rather than sitting on the sidelines.
In the last few years the environmental movement has taken off. Nearly everyone is going green, or at least talking about it. Shouldn’t the church be at the front of the pack, leading the charge? Those in our community see how we act and observe whether or not we practice what we preach. If we say that God created the world and we are the caretakers, is that evident in the way we live our lives as Christians? Is that evident in the way we conduct our worship and church activities? Are people in the community saying, “Now that church is a great example of what caring for God’s creation is all about!”?
Unfortunately, I don’t think that is what is happening. In fact, I think many of us (myself very much included) have been part of the problem rather than part of the solution. You can think what you want about global warming and climate change. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with what Al Gore thinks. God is calling us to appreciate the gift He has given us and to care for it. Picture this scenario: What if our church did what we could to cut our waste? What if instead of using plastic and Styrofoam cups, people brought their own mug for coffee on Sunday and drinks on Wednesday nights? What if we just served water out of pitchers rather than using all those plastic water bottles? What if we used only recycled paper to print church materials and recycled it again when we were done with it, or maybe didn’t print as much in the first place? What if every person from our church decided to use reusable shopping bags for their groceries and said “no” to both paper and plastic? What if we composted our biodegradable waste (like fruit scraps, coffee grounds, grass clippings and leaves) rather than burning it or sending it to the landfill? What if we made as much use as possible of the wonderful recycling facilities that our nation has (and other nations don’t have), or even made recycling facilities available at church? Think about all the waste we could cut down on! The United States produces the most waste per person of any country in the world2. What if our church decided we were going to do what we can to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem?
Let’s take it a step further and think about the energy and fuel we use. What if we carpooled to church and even to work? What if we bought local produce as much as possible so stuff wouldn’t need to be shipped from California or Central America? What if we used long life, efficient light bulbs in our homes and at church? What if we turned off our computers and lights and unplugged things when we weren’t using them? What if we turned the temperature down (or up in the summer) a few degrees when we left the house or just in general? What if we even went so far as to purchase green energy for our church and our homes or investigated if solar panels or wind energy might be a viable option for us? What if we drove hybrid cars, or just smaller more fuel efficient cars or even rode our bikes a little more in the summer? What if we all made an effort to make our work places and businesses a little more environmentally friendly?
What if we made caring for creation not a one time event, but a regular activity for our small groups, Sunday school classes, and youth groups? What if we taught children from a young age about the amazing creation God has provided us with and encouraged them to do a better job than we have to take care of it? What if this became not a new and separate ministry of our church, but just a part of everything we do?
I’m sure that some of us are already doing some or maybe even most of these things. I’m sure that there are also many of them that we are not doing simply because it is not convenient. Luke 12:48b says “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” God has given us so much, but he has also given us responsibility. Many people in the world face the inconvenience of walking a long way to get water every day or hand washing their clothes, or walking or biking to the nearest town to get supplies. Just because we have the option of convenience, it doesn’t mean that the convenient way is always the right way. I challenge you to think about what you can do individually and what we as a church can do together to be better stewards of God’s creation. In doing so, we may be pleasantly surprised at the positive effect it will have on the community looks at us, and maybe even on our bank accounts. If nothing else, we will be doing what God requires of us.
If you are interested in reading more on this topic, check out a good book called “Our Father’s World” by Edward Brown. Many of the ideas I am suggesting here are inspired by this book.
Thank you, Rachel!
[If you’d like to encourage her, send a note via the comments. I suspect she’ll find them.]