Apr 3 2013

Greed and Nature

JI311For centuries there has been a list of sins known as the Seven Deadly Sins.  There is certainly a sense in which all sin is “deadly” but the church has historically recognized some sins to be especially deadly.  One of the Seven Deadly Sins is greed.  You hear a lot about greed these days.  Many people feel that our country’s current economic crisis has greed at its roots.  Greed, however, has been a problem for humans ever since the beginning.  The Bible warns of its dangers repeatedly.

JI329Basically, greed is the selfish desire for more than one actually needs.  We probably think foremost of money when it comes to greed but there are many other areas where greed raises its ugly head.  Recently I came across some insightful words that reminded me of the role greed has played in the environmental crisis.  In his classic work, The Nature and Destiny of Man, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “Man’s sense of dependence upon nature and his reverent gratitude toward the miracle of nature’s perennial abundance is destroyed by his arrogant sense of independence and his greedy effort to overcome the insecurity of nature’s rhythms and seasons by garnering her stores with excessive zeal and beyond natural requirements.  Greed is in short the expression of man’s inordinate ambition to hide his insecurity in nature.”

JI361Human greed is revealed in our hoarding and overusing nature’s resources.  The result is that we now find ourselves in a precarious situation.  We are quickly learning that there is no endless supply of natural resources.  Much of our energy usage comes from nonrenewal forms of energy.  We are also learning more and more that there is a price to be paid for the way we have garnered nature’s “stores with excessive zeal.”   Greed truly does come with a high price tag.  When you consider how greed has led rich nations to hoard natural resources, which has in turn caused strife in poorer nations who struggle to survive, that price tag gets even higher.

JI549It is imperative that we all root out the greed that is in our lives.  Greed is destructive and deadly on many different levels.  In Colossians 3 the apostle Paul told the church at Colossae to “put to death” such sins as greed, lust and anger.  He then went on to encourage them to clothe themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v. 12)  If we are going to avoid the “death” that greed brings to our lives and to the natural world, we must replace it with virtues like those Paul spoke of.  We have got to learn to live unselfishly, to practice love and self-control.  It won’t be easy, nor will it always be the popular thing to do, but it is by all means the right thing to do.


(I took the four images shown here at Jekyll Island on my recent trip to Georgia.)

Sep 2 2012

Nature’s Humbling Power

Nature certainly has a way of keeping us humble.  I suspect God meant for it to be this way knowing that we humans have a tendency to be cocky and think that we are in control.  He also knows that such an attitude can get us into all kinds of trouble.  The Scriptures warn of the dangers of pride for good reason.  When we are prideful we tend not to give God His proper place in our lives.  Perhaps this is why many have suggested that pride is the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is such a danger that God uses nature, and a number of other means, to keep us humble.


God uses nature in a lot of different ways to humble us.  In Sunday School this morning we looked at some of the writings of Martin Luther on prayer.  Luther was moved to become a monk when a bolt of lightning barely missed him.  This close call with nature’s fury definitely got his attention and humbled him.

Sometimes we are humbled by nature in less dramatic ways.  Perhaps we start to feel small after looking at the Milky Way on a clear cold night.  At other times we may be humbled by looking up at majestic mountains or beholding a beautiful sunset.   Both the vastness and beauty of Creation have a way of challenging our pride and humbling us.

On other occasions it can be the risks or dangers inherent in nature that humble us.  When hiking in grizzly bear country or while standing next to a raging torrent I rarely feel prideful.  Last night my wife found another copperhead on our driveway.  Just knowing that there are poisonous snakes living nearby humbles me and makes me think differently of myself.

No doubt those who have recently experienced the power of hurricanes, tornados, floods, drought and fires could, likewise, speak of nature’s ability to humble us.  As painful and frightening as nature’s humbling power can be it is also most beneficial.  The wise writer of Proverbs declared, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (16:18)  By reminding us from time to time that we are not in control and that there are forces far more powerful than us nature can keep us humble and perhaps even help prevent “a fall.”  Nature has a way of reminding us to stay close to the God of Creation and to put our trust in Him.  If nature did nothing more than this, it would be an awesome thing!


(I photographed the coastal brown bear at Katmai National Park, the sunset in Glacier National Park, and the lightning strike at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.)