Many churches will be involved in Earth Day activities this weekend. Some will even devote their Sunday morning message to this topic. Is this something in which churches should be involved?
After His resurrection the Lord sent forth His followers with a specific mission. This same mission is the calling of His followers to this day. What is this mission? What are our priorities? Nowhere did Jesus charge His followers to try to rectify the moral decay, the social wrongs, or the political injustices of the world, neither did He give them the means to change or correct these things. He did give them the command to make disciples, that is, to deliver people from sin and death and bring them into the kingdom of grace, making them heirs of eternal life. He has given them the means by which to do this: the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Churches involved in any other agenda have lost sight of the high calling given them by their Lord Jesus Christ.
As citizens of our nation, we do have temporal concerns and responsibilities. That is why we vote, donate blood, give to charities, and so forth. On the occasion of Earth Day, there are many who would alert us to the problems and dangers we are facing regarding the environment. Yet, it is not always easy to ascertain the truth. Are we really on the threshold of environmental disaster, or has this been overstated? Who can answer this? Scientists and experts disagree. It is difficult to sift through the rhetoric and exaggeration to find the truth. In this case, there may not even be objective truth, but merely educated guesses. What does the future hold? No one knows–that is, no one except the Lord.
He informs us that the world will become more and more an unpleasant place. There will be diseases, famines, and an increase of violence. Worst of all, the love of many for Christ and His Word will grow cold (Mt. 24:12). Eventually, the world will come to an end. In 2 Peter 3 it is described this way: ” . . . the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with a fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” One day, the world and all the accomplishments of mankind will go up in smoke. How sad it is to see people so devoted to the earth that they neglect the One Thing Needful. They have for the creation the love, respect, and devotion they should have for the Creator. Creation is finite, the Creator is eternal.
Now, just because the earth will one day end is not an excuse for abusing, misusing, and despoiling the planet. All of creation is, after all, a gift of God. It is His creation–a truly marvelous creation, indeed! As stewards we should regard it highly, be good caretakers of it, and use it wisely.
Of course, the gap is wide between good intentions and poor performance. This is due to the effect of sin. Consider what sin has done to the sanctity of marriage (adultery) and to the sanctity of human life (murder, abortion). What respect does sinful man have for the reputation of others (gossip) or for the property of others (false ware or dealing)? When we consider the influence of sin in these and other areas, what do we think will happen in the area of responsible stewardship of the world and its resources? We do not need to imagine this, for it is evident.
However, the sinful conduct of many is no excuse for us to follow in kind.
It is well for us to be concerned citizens and to be active in taking care of our earthly responsibilities, including being responsible overseers of the land, air, and water. Yet, as children of God, we are reminded to keep all of these things in their proper perspective. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation (conduct) and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11). Our first priority must be for the welfare of our souls and faithfulness to God’s Word.
We also have obligations of an earthly nature. For example, “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). However, we know that these things pertain only to our brief pilgrimage on earth. We have duties connected with our earthly life, but none of the things of this world deserve the priority of our heart’s love and devotion. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).
“Let them praise the name of the LORD: for His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven” (Ps. 148:13).
–Pastor Delwyn Maas (first written for his own congregation)