Tag Archives: abundant resources

Taking My Theology to the Grocery Store

caged_hens3It’s time for me to eat some humble pie.

For years I have observed food fads from afar, marveling that people have the time and resources to make such a fuss over the labels on the foods that they buy. Organic grocery aisles and upscale health food stores have often struck me as marketing ploys, one more way for the wealthy to spend their excess resources while the poor have to make do with the overly processed, chemically polluted foods that they can actually afford.

Which value will win out: the well-being of the chickens who produce these eggs or the well-being of my children who need to eat them?

I often feel trapped between the responsibility to feed my family well and my meager resources to do so. I’m one of those who show up at closing time to snatch up the clearance foods that are too old to sell. I pick mold off of bread crusts and find creative ways to turn leftover scraps into another meal. And with a family that walks or cycles everywhere we go, I often feel at my wit’s end to keep up with our caloric needs, especially in light of how expensive most protein sources are.

So each time I examine the price labels on the egg aisle, I face a moral dilemma. Which value will win out: the well-being of the chickens who produce these eggs or the well-being of my children who need to eat them? I am ashamed to admit that I have intentionally buried my head in the sand, preferring to walk out of the store with my three affordable cartons of caged-hen eggs rather than to take seriously my responsibility to be a steward of God’s creation.

I tried to keep my theology conveniently contained at home. But God won’t stay in my cage.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field… The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.
The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests…
These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
Psalm 104:10-12, 16-17, 27-18

God loves all of His creation. For years I have savored His repeated declarations of loving care for His creatures, inevitably filling in the blank with mental images of myself and my family, or perhaps of oppressed women in South Asia and starving children in Africa. But when it comes to those bits that specifically talk about His tender care for the animals, I’m ashamed to admit that I have largely read them in terms of just how loving and compassionate He is, and then lumped them in with how much He cares about people.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
Psalm 8:3-8

How anthropocentric of me! The world doesn’t revolve around people. Yes, we are the crowning glory of physical creation, the bits of earth that have been fashioned into the image of God and infused with the Spirit of God. We are the ones whom He has raised up from the dust and entrusted with the responsibility of ruling over the rest of His earth, including its dogs and chickens, crops and ecosystems. He has given these things to us to provide for our needs, but with that privilege comes responsibility.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
Matthew 6:26; 10:29

Jesus had strong words and an even stronger example about what it looks like to rule. Tender nurture. Sacrificial service. And embedded in His reminders of our Father’s loving care for us are powerful statements of God’s loving care for the rest of His creatures. Feeding the birds. Noticing their living conditions. Of course we are more valuable to Him than they are, but that doesn’t negate their worth. It confirms it.

After receiving all of God’s lavish provisions, can I really turn around and stingily refuse some chickens the dignity of a decent living space?

And so as I am faced with the question of how much I am willing to sacrifice for the living conditions of these out-of-sight, out-of-mind hens, I feel just a bit like that ungrateful servant who received much grace but refused to pass it on. My Father has lavished abundant resources on me. Those discounted items at the grocery store are His manna falling from heaven. And that gift-ordered turkey that I can’t fit into my tiny freezer is His extravagant provision, more bountiful than my storage capacity. After receiving all that, can I really turn around and stingily refuse some chickens the dignity of a decent living space?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:31-33

And lest I think that in looking out for the needs of the rest of creation my own needs will suffer, God puts my silly worries to rest. Will He who did not spare the turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner not along with it graciously give us all the ethically-sourced eggs we need to dress it?

What Abuse Is Not

Abuse is a topic I have too long avoided writing about. But something as pernicious and pervasive as abuse cries out for a righteous response.

God is love. He embodies everything that abuse is not.

Domestic abuse. Child abuse. Sexual abuse. Spiritual abuse. Abusive language. Abusive relationships. We use the word abuse in so many different ways that what it really means becomes obscured. By what standard do we judge that something or someone is being mis-used?

To understand what abuse is, I want to go back to a clear picture of what it is not.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. … God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. … And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.”… God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”
Genesis 1:2, 16, 20, 22

Not aloof. Not destructive. Not demeaning. In the beginning, God came personally near to the world. His Spirit hovered over the place where He would create beauty out of chaos, meaning out of darkness, life out of emptiness, love out of void. He took great delight in calling forth the moon and the stars, the sea creatures and the sky creatures, the plants and the animals, instilling them each with the dignity of a role and a purpose. To the lights in the sky He delegated the powerful, illustrious role of ruling over time and seasons. To the plants and various living creatures He entrusted the task of finishing the work He had started, empowering them to reproduce and fill the earth with more of themselves.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”… God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Genesis 1:27-28, 31

Not restrictive. Not degrading. Not isolating. He raised a man up out of the dust, carefully crafting him to look, think, feel, and function like Himself. He did not attempt to keep the man alone to Himself, but instead designed the loveliest of companions to fulfill his social needs. Together He exalted them to His own position as rulers over the earth, endowing them with the right to govern His abundant resources. Reveling in their radiance, delighting in their goodness, God equipped them, blessed them, and set them free to carry on His creative work in the world.

He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate– bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. … These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
… who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. … As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 104:13-15, 27-28; 103:2-4, 13-14

Not threatened. Not stingy. Not hard-hearted. Even after their rejection of His authority and insistence on their own autonomy, God did not retaliate with whole-scale physical deprivation or emotional abandonment. He continues to direct the sun and send the rain to nurture life on the earth, to open His hand and feed its many creatures. Like a loving Father, He facilitates the accomplishments of His people and satisfies their desires with good things. And when they come back to Him broken and needy, He does not lord it over them with a smug, “I told you so” or make them grovel with a “Do you know how much you wronged me?” He throws open His arms to welcome them, compassionately healing their wounds and joyfully celebrating their restored relationship.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Ephesians 5:25-27

Not distancing. Not penalizing. Not cruel. In response to shortcomings in His bride, Jesus chose self-sacrifice instead of her punishment, violence against His own body rather than against hers. He lovingly labors for her, tending her like a cherished garden which needs constant weeding and faithful feeding. He washes away her impurities and enhances her beauty so that He can show her off for all in heaven and on earth to admire. He delights in her glory.

God is love. He embodies everything that abuse is not. In the next several posts, I intend to examine abuse within human relationships from several angles. But for now, I want to bask in the beauty of how God relates to us. This relationship is not only our reference point for all others, it is the one right relationship that heals us from the wrongs of abusive ones.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8