Do you feel in despair or grateful when you think of the world? With recent events like the Australian bush fire crisis and the Covid-19 outbreak, I have sometimes been tempted to give up hoping that things can be better on earth. I forget that, despite distressing problems, this earth was created by God, who still cares for it. Some of us may say, “This earth will not remain when Christ returns, so why should we be concerned about the state of the earth?” We may all have different views about the earth we live on — but how does God see it now?
JOY OF THE CREATOR
Genesis 1 describes how God feels about the heavens and the earth — that is, everything — He created. After each day’s work, God surveyed what He made and judged that it was “good” — and this declaration was repeated seven times! His deep satisfaction and joy in creation is also evident from Job 38–41. God reveals to Job that as He laid the foundations of the earth, “the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). He then talks about His creation with a kind of tender pride, such as when He describes Himself fathering rain and dew (38:28), and paying loving attention when His creatures give birth (39:1–2).
Can you relate to how God delights in the things on earth? I personally enjoy escaping the city to beautiful nature spots. I am sure there is some aspect of creation that each of us delights in, be it a bright sunny day, a vast ocean, or even things made from natural resources like great food and pretty clothes. As our loving Father, God would surely delight in us enjoying His creation. However, with the onslaught of man-made disasters that have worldwide impact, the consequences of human sin, which puts all creation under bondage (Rom 8:20), are evident and painfully felt.
CONNECTING TO THE CREATOR
“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps 24:1). This verse comes to mind as I reflect on why I love the earth and care for its health. I still remember magical moments of standing amidst majestic mountains and seeing wild horses gallop through the rolling plains of Mongolia. These moments were all the more glorious because I felt connected in a new way to my Creator who has created such beauty. Back home, whenever I am stressed at work, I would take a walk down a road lined with rain trees. I’d look up to see the sturdy trees against warm sunlight, and my heart would calm down. These trees provide perspective to my problems: as they have stood firm for years through the storms, so too will God stand by me and help me to overcome all things. All these connections with nature and God grow my appreciation for His creation and His character.
EVERYTHING ON EARTH BELONGS TO GOD, AND NOTHING BELONGS TO US.
KEEPERS OF THE EARTH
As I meditate on Psalm 24:1, I am reminded of this beautiful truth: Everything on earth belongs to God, and nothing belongs to us. And yet, God has given humankind the responsibility of stewardship over everything He has created (Gen 1:28). Like a gardener given the task of keeping his employer’s garden, we are given the responsibility to watch over our Creator’s earth. As keepers of the earth, we are to manage all these resources on earth in a way that shows our love for both God and His creation. This begins with an attitude of gratitude and appreciation for the things that sustain and enrich our lives, from the food that keeps us alive, to the technology that we use every day. This will help us to treasure and use these things with care, going against the exploitative and throwaway culture that is so prevalent today.
This role as keepers of the earth is not just a responsibility, but also a privilege for us as God’s beloved daughters. We are part of His grand purpose to redeem and restore shalom to humankind and creation. Shalom refers to more than just peace. It is a state of well-being and fruitfulness in which God, humans and all the rest of creation live in loving harmony, with concern for the good of every single creature. We can think of it as God saying to us: “You have experienced the shalom of being reconciled with me. Would you now partner with me to extend this shalom throughout the world?”
As I sought to love God more, I grew in my conviction that I need to be a better steward of the resources given to me. I have become more intentional in my consumption, trying to use only what I need. For example, I have switched to buying pre-loved or BNIB (Brand New in Box) apparel, and only when needed. I can afford to buy new clothes, but in seeking to honour my Creator, I want to be more thoughtful in what I buy, so that I can reduce the environmental impact caused by fast fashion. For me, this means that I can look good and also feel good in my new outfits!
MY NEIGHBOUR’S KEEPER
Apart from loving God through caring for His creation, being keepers of the earth is also about keeping the second greatest commandment — to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:29–31). My heart aches when I see photos of East African mothers holding their malnourished babies. How helpless it must feel to see the life of your children ebbing away because you’re not able to provide for them! Climate change is one of the main reasons that hunger is the norm for one in five people in the whole of Africa. I feel awful knowing that this is mainly because they have taken the brunt of the actions of developed countries. Those of us who live in advanced economies have the means to shield ourselves against the effects of climate change. In contrast, those of our neighbours who have fewer resources suffer from the impact of the unsustainable devouring of the earth’s resources, largely driven by the demands of the affluent.
WE ARE PART OF HIS GRAND PURPOSE TO REDEEM AND RESTORE SHALOM TO HUMANKIND AND CREATION.
In seeking shalom, I realized that being my brother or sister’s keeper means remembering how my choices can affect my neighbours across the world who seem distant, but are very close to God’s heart. In practical terms, I ask myself the difficult question of whether I really want that cup of bubble tea, or can I give it a miss to reduce plastic waste? I also consider carefully how much to travel, given that air travel accounts for a significant proportion of carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. How can we live in, use and enjoy creation as keepers of the earth? I believe that it is good for us to enjoy the pleasures of God’s creation, but to do so wisely (like having bubble tea when one is stressed, but in a reusable cup). We have the responsibility to steward carefully what is given to us. Guided by the love for God and our neighbour, let us reflect and pursue the beautiful shalom that our Father has brought us into, so that others may glorify God as well.