At the very beginning of our scripture, we find God creating a world that is ‘very good’. It is clear from the first chapter of Genesis that God created a world for humans, plants and animals alike. God saw to it that all the creatures and human beings were provided for, with the human being charged with being a steward of God’s good creation. This is particularly clear in Genesis 1–2.
Keeping the creation as ‘good’ can be reasonably interpreted as not poisoning or polluting it, as giving due care to the natural needs of domestic food animals, and as preserving the habitat of wild animals. This is further reinforced in Genesis 8, where God makes the same covenant with animals as humans, promising never to destroy the earth again.
It is a sad truth that in our modern, civilised world, we have not kept the creation good. We have allowed synthetic created chemicals to poison our air and our waterways; we have destroyed natural habitats so animal and plant species face extinction; Indigenous peoples have been driven off their land to satisfy large corporations requiring mono crops and oil supplies; and we have allowed the over-fishing of many species.
With the increase of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, we have changed the climate of our planet; threatening the homelands of many people and the extinction of many animals. We leave a trail of indestructible plastic garbage throughout the world. Right now, we have so many good reasons, as Christians and stewards of the planet, to live sustainably. Climate change, energy costs and problems of supply, personal happiness and contentedness, species extinction, disastrous environmental destruction, our family’s health and safety, adaptability, healthy food and water supply issues, waste, and a fair go for those who grow our food… the reasons are many, and we could no doubt add several more to this list.
We are treating our world like it has endless resources instead of finite ones.
I can’t help wondering if God could still call God’s creation ‘good’. It is hard to accept that the things that have propped up my lifestyle – the free market, capitalism, fresh food all year round, cheap transport and goods – are the very things that have caused the problem. Our economy is predicated on all of us buying stuff we probably don’t need or really want. Those producing this stuff have one aim – make everyone consume and spend more. And we become used to cheap stuff.
Our clothes are far less expensive than a hundred years ago, because we rely on oppressed people in developing Asian countries to make them. There are more gadgets to simplify our lives and save time in the kitchen, on cleaning and on washing than ever before. Car advertisements on television wanting us to buy new cars must outweigh advertisements for bicycles or electric scooters a 100 to 1. We are seduced by convenience, leaving a trail of single use plastic bags, straws and bottles behind us, killing the creatures God created as good.
Surely as the Christian church, economic factors should not be our driving motivator. Our driving motivator should be to care for God’s good creation. We need to become much more thoughtful about what we consume, and what impact it will have.
As an American First Nations person once said, ‘You can’t eat money, and the sooner we recognise this, the better.’
Rev Elizabeth Raine