Ecology is a much discussed topic in our time. This branch of science, which deals with the relationship of a creature to his environment, has now become primarily concerned with the relationship of man to his environment. It is obvious to almost anyone that more and more people in this world are becoming involved with the subject of ecology every day. Almost everything from lapel buttons to bumper stickers reveals a growing concern of many who have begun to realize at last that their earth is beginning to show signs of much misuse by man. Americans are particularly concerned with the condition of their surroundings. Living in so affluent a society has now produced for them many problems which they had never before dreamed of having. Among these ecological problems are land, air, and water pollution. Once beautiful lakes, rivers, and streams are now being poisoned daily by wastes flowing from the same factories which once symbolized the wealth and prosperity. The sapphire blue of the sky is gradually taking on the sickly grey hue of smog, and the land itself is being ruined by chemical overdoses.
God’s people in this land are also affected by this pollution problem. They drink water from the same resources, eat of the crops produced by the same land, and breathe of the same filthy air as do their worldly neighbors. But the Child of God has and must have a different attitude when he sees this rapid destruction of earth’s beauty. Pollution then takes on a new meaning for him as he reads the Word of God.
The first comfort for the Christian can be found in Isaiah 24:1, where he read, “Behold the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it a waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth the inhabitants thereof.” In this verse, as well as in many other verses of the Bible, we find that it is God alone who controls what happens to the earth which he himself has formed. Going on to verse five of the same chapter, we find the cause for the defilement of this earth, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” Man, in all his attempts to make nature submit to his authority, only succeeds in upsetting the balance of nature so perfectly worked out by the Father. Thus we see that sin itself is the cause for this pollution, and we, the conscious partakers it is, serve only to corrupt what God has made beautiful.
A man of the world, Albert Schweitzer, once said, “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” These words speak better than any I found about how the World and the Church differ on the ecology problem in this world today. Schweitzer’s words certainly speak of little hope in this man’s heart, and they reflect, to be sure the same feeling of pessimism in the hearts of many people today. But going even deeper into their significance, we find that although man realizes his helplessness, he still refuses to admit or submit to a God. It is when he reads of such despair, that the Christian finds he has much for which to be thankful. He realizes that he has a heavenly Father, who upholds all by His Providence, and Who has already in His sovereign will determined what will happen to this earth.
God has also told us of the things to come. He has done this so that we might recognize the coming of the latter days, and thus be ready and watching for the second coming of our Lord. We, then, who have these signs before us, certainly need not worry about our “capacity to foresee and to forestall,” for this is in the hands of our Sovereign and Omnipotent God. His promise to us is that “all things work together for good to those that fear Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Knowing of this assurance of God, the Child of God never needs to let the World’s calls of warning cause fear in his heart.
But then, seeing that God will accomplish His purpose in spite of man’s efforts to solve the problem, must we then neglect to do our share in preventing further pollution, and forget about the World’s admonitions. The answer is definitely in the negative. Although God has not commanded us to march in protest of corruption of Creation, we nevertheless still have the command before us to be faithful stewards. God has given to us this beauty of Creation, and we have no right to abuse it. And even though we are far outnumbered by those who continue this abuse, and even when we see our efforts toward good stewardship having little effect upon the earth, we must keep in mind that our reward is greater than the sight of newly cleared skies or water that man hopes to achieve. Our reward is of Christ, for He has himself promised in Luke 12: 42-43 that he will be blessed, who, when his Lord returns, has been found at the work of a good steward.
With this hope and comfort in our hearts, we can easily look at the words of Schweitzer, and at the effects of pollution, still saying, “The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Psalm 19:1). For we look beyond clouds of smog and waste-filled oceans to clouds of glory and to the seas which will someday reflect the splendor of the returning Christ.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 9 January 1971