The earth from space

God saw all that he had made and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

Larry Palmer, an elder in our church, really loves recycling. So much so that we have considered giving him the title “associate elder for the environment.”  If we were the sort of church that liked to hand out titles. Larry is a difficult man to pin down but a few weeks ago I managed to get him to sit still for 15 minutes and talk about his passion. Our short conversation became the material for this post.

Recycling.  It is not a topic we normally associate with the gospel and discipling children.  My hope is that by the end of this article, you will begin to see recycling, not as the obsession of leftover hippies, but an important part of following of Jesus.

During our conversation, I posed this question to Larry, “So why should Christian families care about recycling?” A number of ideas were thrown out, but in the end we settled on two:

  • Recycling is part of God’s command to humanity to care for and rule over His creation.
  • Recycling is wonderful way to raise money for the work of God’s kingdom.

Following Jesus and protecting the environment

Between sips of coffee, Larry’s voice begins to get animated. “It burns me up to see what fills our landfills. So much waste. So many things that could have been reused. Instead our town dump is filled with mounds of unwanted stuff, some of which slowly leaches into the ground and works its way into our water supply.” His passion is not rooted in a desire to worship nature, but a heart that reflects God’s love for His own creation.

The goodness of our world fairly leaps off the page when you read the account of creation in Genesis 1. In the story God speaks the  world into existence pausing only to admire his handiwork. He gazes at the dazzling  light and exclaims, “it is good.” The oceans, the continents, plants, animals, birds, fish, stars, the sun, the moon and human beings also earn similar praise.  My favorite part of the story is the end where God stops to admire all that he had created.

God saw all that he made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

The world, the environment, all that God has made takes His breath away. If He treasures it this much, shouldn’t we? After all we were created to rule over this world and take care of it.

Genesis 1:28 God blessed [Adam and Eve] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing creatures that moves on the ground.”

As sinful people we have twisted the word ‘rule’ into ‘exploitation.’  Rulers in our world are expected to exploit those under them for their own gain, just as human beings have exploited the earth and its resources for their own short term profit. But a ruler in God’s eyes is one who serves the good of those under his authority, just as King Jesus laid down his life for us, his subjects.

When we consume products and mindlessly throw them away; When we are careless with the stuff that God has given us;  When we treat the world as an ‘it’ to be exploited rather than a jewel that God treasures; we abdicate our God-given role as rulers over God’s creation. We violate our own purpose while heaping insults on One who made and treasures it all.

What better way to give your children a Christ-like attitude towards God’s creation than to teach them the principles of using less, reusing what we can and recycling what we are finished with. We do it, not to worship creation, but to honor the Creator and live out His purpose for us in the world.

Recycling and God’s Resources

Larry continued our scattered caffeine fueled conversation. “My neighbor died a few weeks ago and her son flew in from Texas to clean out the house to put it on the market. As time began to run short, he began to throw away stuff wholesale. I asked to take a look at what he was throwing away and the ‘trash’ in the first bag alone was worth well over a hundred of dollars. We’re literally throwing away money and it’s crazy.”

As Larry talked, my thoughts turned to our recent trips to Honduras. In a world of extreme poverty sums as little as $50 can change a family’s life forever. $50 builds an outdoor adobe oven and starts a young mother in the baking business. $35 a year gives an orphan in Kenya two meals a day and a quality education. It was Jesus who said, “sell your possessions, give the money to the poor and come follow me.” What if we started obeying Jesus’ command by selling the stuff we were going to throw away anyway? In your homes are old appliances, mounds of used batteries, broken electronics, scrap metal and unwanted jewelry all with the potential of changing someone’s life forever.

Recycling – a way to love God and your neighbor

Christianity is more than getting to heaven.  It is way of life that touches every aspect of life including how we treat our world and use the stuff we buy. Practiced in the proper perspective, recycling is a beautiful way to teach your family a love for God our Creator, love for neighbor and an appreciation for the abundance He has given us. So how do you get started? That’s the topic for next week’s article. Stay tuned.