I’ll end up poking the bear with these thoughts, but that’s not intentional nor should it really be provocative, if you’ll agree with me, that this topic is biblically-rooted, even from the very first pages of the Bible.
I read an article a few weeks ago, and it was the last straw. Literally. Cedar and I decided we would no longer buy plastic straws. (I can see some of your eyes rolling). We go through quite a bit in our household, especially in the summer. One of our kids loves to drink everything with a straw. One quote I read said, “used for minutes but here for centuries.” Truth.
Visit a developing country, and you’ll find virtually nothing in the average person’s life that qualifies as “single-use” which is an apt term for straws. Stick it in your drink, suck down your beverage, throw it all out. Convenience – and the freedom to waste something as simple as a cup or a straw – is a product of wealth.
Any eye-rolling probably stems from an association of environmental-consciousness with liberal politics. But this is not a political issue. Whatever the Right or the Left have to say, biblical Christians have the greatest motivation to care for this earth. If this place is just a big rock that accidentally, randomly allowed life to burst forth, then environmental concern is actually pretty commendable because of its unselfish desire for the next generation’s thriving. But God himself gives us far greater motivation: He puts us in charge. He creates us in His image, which is directly linked to our delegated-authority over creation: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, SO THAT they may rule over…” all of creation (Genesis 1:26). Now, you could take that to mean, “We should be able to do whatever we want, for our own benefit.” But none of us would respect authority over our lives, that does whatever he or she wants, for their personal gain. Godly authority involves stewardship over God’s creation; and godly authority over the earth, involves appreciation for beauty and concern for created life, NOT wasteful use of limited resources, NOT raping the earth for gain and leaving toxicity and barrenness behind. Godly-authority, like servant-leadership, is sacrificial and other-centered. This is a God-thing, not a liberal thing. And no, the thought that God’s going to wipe out the earth and bring his people to heaven one day, is not a Biblical argument. His salvation plan will culminate in the New Heavens and the New Earth – one singular, united reality. It’s not ok to think that we can leave this place a mess because God will clean it up.
Of course, it’s not about the humble little straw. It’s about all of the many ways we thoughtlessly consume and discard because we can, because we live in a wealthy country. Inconvenience can be a loving choice. Extending hospitality to others is inconvenient. You have to buy extra food, prepare, think of others’ needs, and then when everyone’s gone, clean it all up. Inconvenient? Yes. Loving and worth it? Absolutely!
One writer called the humble straw “a gateway plastic,” borrowing the term from drug use that often starts with something like marijuana and then progresses. Just a few weeks ago, a whale was found in distress. Despite rescue efforts, it died, and was found to have consumed 80 plastic bags in its stomach. One creature in a vast ocean. But those bags could have come from just one month of shopping by the Wang family.
My motivation is not so much a rallying cry to environmental concern. That’s needed, but even more so, I hope you’ll consider the spiritual lesson underneath it, of dying to self. Of considering the countless, thoughtless ways we want what we want, while failing to consider the greater cost. That requires repentance, along with a commitment to simpler living and more thoughtful consumption. That involves faith that Christ has even had to pay for your sin of selfishly-poor stewardship of creation. And that can sharpen our trust that God somehow is still making all things new. How glorious the new creation will be, free from disease, corruption, and microplastics in our water!
Grace be with you,
Peter Wang is our Senior Pastor.