The Earth is the Lord’s

Three key ways to appreciate what He has made

By Phil Wagler

So we’re watching some animated movie when a dancing deer amazes my kids. One blurts, “That is soooo cool!” Their older brother, having moved beyond such immaturity yet unable to turn his eyes away, corrects, “It’s a CARTOON! Animals can’t really do that.” Thanks, Einstein.

A few weeks later we’ve graduated from the Disneyfication of the world and are watching that stunning documentary, Planet Earth. The amazing cinematography follows a chase to the death. A wolf pursues a young caribou calf across the rugged tundra, eventually overtaking the vulnerable one in a disturbing image of the brutality of life.

Our youngest son watches silently then declares, “He got him.” He is neither celebratory nor sad. This just is and someone needed to say it. Uncommon familial silence follows and a strange wonder hangs in the air. The moment surpasses the giddy detachment from reality stirred by that other cuddly façade of talking critters.

It seems to me this second experience is closer to what ought to be the human response to the vastness and wildness of the created world. Our First Nations neighbours and friends have much to teach about living in the unavoidable and codependent relationship that exists between we bipeds and the flora, fauna, and cosmos. While many of us can’t avoid drooling over technology—the world created by human hands—we would do well to take a long walk in the unpredictable wilderness where there is no cell coverage, animals don’t play fair, the wind can blow us into submission, and we find our place beside Job as he hears from the Lord, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).

So, this leads me to consider three positions of the heart and hands as I consider my relationship to the world around me as a follower of Jesus.

First, awe. I have the privilege of driving a road every day that provides a stunning and knee-bending view of British Columbia’s coastal mountains. Occasionally a Bald Eagle stares down on me from a broken tree branch. And, when there’s a full moon on a clear night over all this, well, it leads to awe.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers…” (Psalm 8:3) crooned King David. Everywhere we look there is reason for awe. Science is a daughter of faith because awe leads not only to worship, but discovery and query. We seek to understand what amazes us. The fact that we’ve taught our kids to laugh at rather than wonder at what surrounds us cannot bode well for the future of humility or true knowledge of the Holy One.

Second, respect. Milking cows and shoveling other bovine products taught me more than appreciation for where my food comes from, it taught me respect. You don’t know respect until you’ve been cornered by a 600-pound bull who thinks you’re his play toy. “Is the wild ox willing to serve you?”(Job 39:9) asked the Lord. It’s a fair question. There’s no guarantee he will. At the same time, the ox can be brought in line more easily than a mosquito! Isn’t it amazing how the smallest bug can control you?

Respect must be added to awe. Could it be that our abuse of the earth that is the locale of the resurrection is rooted in a lack of respect for what we have been given dominion over, yet can be thoroughly dominated by?

Which leads to a third position: concern. Awe and respect are nice but incomplete without active concern. This is not about sentimentality, but dirty-hands. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…” (Psalm 24:1). It’s all His and if we know Him we should share His concern.

Paul quotes Psalm 24 in 1 Corinthians to justify the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. He’s not defending rabid consumption of steak (though I am suddenly hungry), but pointing out that avoiding something because it was deemed belonging to an idol is not Christ-centered position. The earth and everything in it belongs to the Creator. No idol, demon, or even human can claim ownership.

And so, we receive all with thanksgiving and never approach the world as consumers. We become concerned enough to care well, steward well, use well, and live in that tenuous, but glorious space God has placed us in as the crown of His creation.

Phil Wagler is a pastor, husband, father and former farm hand living in Surrey, BC.


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