Today, we find ourselves in a world where there doesn’t seem to be enough resources to provide for the needs of many. Good, healthy, and affordable food options are out of reach for many over the globe. Water resources, that are not contaminated with toxic chemicals, are drying up. Land is becoming uninhabitable. And the supply of adequate housing is limited. As these rich resources diminish, humanity hangs in a fragile balance teetering between life and annihilation. Such a stark picture suggests that the abundant world described in the biblical text is not only unattainable but seemingly a cultural myth, like Santa Claus – in theory, it’s a good idea but it simply isn’t reality.
To what can we attribute the mismatch in projected truth and what is actually our day to day experience? Should we call God into question? Is there some ontological error in His design? Perhaps. But there is little evidence that supports the idea of God being on the hook here. In fact, God has gone out of His way to ensure that this world is a place where all of creation can flourish. Says Psalm 65:
“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. 9 You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. 10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. 11 You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. 12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. 13 The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing (Psalms 65.8 – 13, NIV).”
This text and others like it paint a wonderful picture of God’s good creation. His creation, called into existence by simply speaking a word, is rich and beautiful in every possible way. Not only is creation beautiful, God’s active participation in sustaining it is awe inspiring. Every day, since His words created the heavens and earth and all that is in between, God has upheld His marvelous creation. As the psalmist describes, God continuously provides nourishment, shelter, and care to all that He has made.
What this shows us is that there is more than enough in God’s good earth. More than enough beauty, more than enough resources, more than enough love and connection to provide for all 7 billion of us! In fact, God’s intelligent design ensures that there is enough to go around to the extent that even birds of the air and cattle in the field have their needs met. If there is lack, it is not because God has not provided; it is because we have mistaken his rich blessings that are to be shared throughout the earth as personal property to be hoarded and protected with the rule of law.
Unfortunately, the practice of hoarding is common to the human experience and goes back thousands, if not millions, of years. As soon as Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we have had trouble trusting that what God provides is actually enough. Such distrust is rooted in:
(1) anxiety. We fear that there is not enough to go around. Out of that fear, we reach out to grasp resources that should be shared with all. Instead, we keep them for ourselves.
(2) covetousness or greed. We set out to possess and own all that our heart desires. Instead of appreciating the earth and all that dwells within, we seek to colonize it and keep the profits for our own gain.
(3) insecurity. We look to things outside of ourselves to define who we are. Instead of being confident in who God made us to be, we look to status, possessions and others to form our identity and make us feel good about ourselves.
With anxiety, covetousness, and insecurity governing our lives, we are liable to commit grave atrocities in our quest to have a piece of the proverbial pie. Wars have been fought, people have been hunted and killed, and lands have been plundered – all with the ambition of getting more food, wealth, and resources. And yet, this does not take into consideration what our practices have done to the physical earth through invasive resource extraction such as tar sand removal and mining.
In the human drive for expansion and empire building, we have hurt our relationships with God, self, the environment, and others. Fear of others now seems to be normative, permissible in fact, even when that fear causes us to do irrational things such as trust in guns and more arms for our salvation. The realities of climate change threaten human existence and yet corporations and other monied interests inhibit our collective ability to protect and preserve this shared space for future generations. Police brutality, violence against women, and the consistent erasure of narratives from indigenous communities around the world – all for the sake of profit, power, and control – not only marginalize vulnerable populations but compromise our shared humanity. Yet and still, though the signs of chaos are all around, we continue on in the slow march towards destruction and alienation.
The question before us is if we can ever find our way back to a place of more harmonious, fruitful living? Can shalom ever be restored? Could we ever get to a place where we put people over profit or a time when we consider the impact the decisions we make today will have 10 generations after us? I believe so. In Christ, all things are made new. All of the fear and anxiety that governs human interactions will dissipate and at last, we will live as equals because we are no longer competing for resources. And while we typically think of newness in the context of relationships with God and others, that newness is also extended to the entirety of creation. Waters begin to flow again. Lands become inhabitable again. Food is abundant. The air is clean. All that was once abundant and pure about God’s good world is restored.
As we wait expectantly for Christ’s return, we have a job to do. As believers and those who profess faith in Jesus, we have a duty to imagine the world differently. We have to imagine what it is like to live in a world where the needs of everyone are met. We have to daydream a little about what it would really be like to live in an environment where there is so much balance and flow. In that imagining, we reject anxiety, greed, and insecurity as normative. Instead, we lift up love, justice, and peace and promote these as the gospel truth. And then we share these visions of wholeness with the world around us so that they too can imagine and live more justly. We do all of this understanding that this is only the beginning in seeing God’s kingdom fully realized.