Nov 6 2013

Who Owns the Earth?

_CES0435According to the story, President Lyndon B. Johnson was walking across the tarmac toward a plane when one of his assistants informed him that the plane he was walking toward was not his.  LBJ’s response was, “They’re all mine, son.”  Perhaps this was a bit of presidential humor on his part but it sounds a whole lot more like arrogance.  To think that because of your position you owned all planes is pretty preposterous.   Most of us would look down on someone who thought that way.  But here’s the sad part.  It would appear that a lot of us do think that way when it comes to the earth.  As humans we think it is ours, that it belongs to us.  This is not what the Bible says.  The Scriptures declare repeatedly that the earth belongs to the Lord.

GG7058This morning I was reading Joan Chittister’s little book called Songs of the Heart: Reflections on the Psalms.  In one chapter she focuses on these words from Psalm 89:11–“The heavens are yours, the earth is yours; the world and its fullness, you have made.”  Here is her reflection on this passage.  “This psalm is about relationship. It is rich with the promise and the responsibilities that go with a covenant with God.  It reminds us that we are the stewards, not the owners, of this creation.  The trouble comes when we forget that, when we begin to think that all the things in life belong to us.  We talk about ‘our staff’ and ‘our projects’ and ‘our money’ and ‘our car’ and our land’ and ‘our success’ and ‘our achievements.’  We begin to own God’s works, and ownership of God’s works lead inevitably to downfall and disappointment because the center shifts.  We begin to think about control instead of human community and the purpose of life and the real meaning of things.  The psalm asks for a spirit of co-creation.  It asks us to let go.”

GG7190I think Joan is right on target.  The human arrogance seen in our belief that the earth belongs to us will inevitably lead to “downfall and disappointment” because the center has been shifted to the wrong place.  What we need is another Copernican Revolution—one where we recognize that at the center of all things stands not humans but God.  One where the official anthem is not “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land” but “This is My Father’s World.”

ASP0416If you keep up with what’s going on in the world at all you know that we are facing numerous environmental crises.  In the vast majority of the cases the true reason for the crisis is humanity’s failure to recognize that the earth is the Lord’s.  In far too many instances we have looked at the earth primarily as something we can profit from.  Our arrogance has opened a Pandora’s Box of troubles that is adversely affecting the health and well-being of millions of people.  More than most people are willing to admit we are paying for our sin—the sin of pride.  We should have listened to the “good Book.”  We really should have!  And if we don’t start stressing more the biblical mandate to be good stewards of God’s Creation things are only going to get worse.  So please help the cause by reminding others that we  do not own the earth; it belongs to the Lord.


(The top image shows the Ohio River at Henderson, Ky.  The second and third images were taken recently at Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois.  The bottom picture was taken at John James Audubon State Park.)

Aug 10 2011

To The Glory of God

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…” Psalm 24:1

After posting my blog, “Spirituality and Beauty,” this past Sunday I got an e-mail from my good friend, Kenny Faught, who in response to what I had written shared a wonderful story.  He wrote: “The post today reminded me of when I was a pastor in Cumberland, KY.  An older pastor was with us for the week holding a revival meeting.  One day we were walking a trail at Kingdom Come State Park when I realized he had ‘fallen behind’.  I did an about-face and walked back to him.  He was cradling a tiny flower in his hands, and asked, ‘Do you know why this tiny flower blooms way out here where it will likely never be seen?  To the glory of God!’”

This “older pastor” realized something that many of us tend to forget.  It’s not all about us.  We tend to judge the worth or value—and even beauty—of things by how they affect us.  If we benefit from the object or find it pleasing we give it value.  If we do not find or see a personal benefit, or do not find it pleasing, we do not consider the object to be of much value or worth. 

When Rob and I were photographing in Redwood National Park a couple of months ago we walked a trail in the Lost Creek area.  Along the trail there were lots of wildflowers.  I suspect most people would have considered the columbine we saw to be quite beautiful.  On the same trail we also saw several banana slugs.  Here my suspicion is that most people would not have considered this creature beautiful and might even call it “disgusting.”  Why?  Both are creations of God.  Both have their place in the natural world. 

Perhaps it is just part of being human that we judge everything from our own particular position.  As Christians, however, we must recognize that the world should be viewed from God’s perspective.  A lot of folks today need to experience a new “Copernican Revolution.”  Copernicus turned the world upside down when he discovered that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around.  I think it would turn our world upside down today as well if more of us could come to realize that the world does not revolve around us.  The “older pastor” was right; the world exists for “the glory of God!”

I encourage you to give some thought to how you might view things differently if you sought to look at the world through God’s eyes rather than your own.  I also encourage you to consider how this might affect how you treat the earth and its resources.  If the earth truly is the Lord’s, as the Psalmist indicated, and it exists for His glory, I cannot help but believe that it will, indeed, make a difference in how we see and treat Creation.


(I photographed the columbine and banana slug in June on the trail described above.)