My family moved to a different home recently. Yes, they let me come too. The volume of “stuff” seemingly birthed by this venture is overwhelming. Cardboard boxes that haven’t been opened for years, plastic bags stuffed with clothes, questionably reusable but definitely obsolete items (mint condition VHS tape of the movie Wayne’s World, anybody?) and helpless pink, stuffed animals all bulge around the ratchet straps and bungee cords straining to contain the mess in the bed of my little pickup truck, trip number 11.
My wife and I try to be responsible with the disastrous pile, diligently allocating unwanted items to charities, recycling facilities, thrift stores and, if we must, dumpsters. It is there at the row of stinking metal dumpsters that I take pause. The big receptacles appear to have choked and coughed up their contents onto the surrounding gravel. Very much is recyclable, even reusable! Hey, at least someone brought it to the dumpsite instead of throwing it out of the car window. At camp we often pick up litter on the sides of the road. Beer cans, liquor bottles, fast food bags, tobacco product packaging, energy drink cans, soft drink bottles and lottery tickets comprise 90% of the roadside litter. What is going on here? Lest you think I am going on a tree-hugging tirade, let me get to the point. Something deeper than environmental concerns are tugging at my brain, nay, at my very soul.
Could our relationship with the environment affect the way we view our relationships with God and our community? When I say environment, think resources like money, food, land, animals, trees, water, buildings, air, roads, vehicles, etc. If my relationship with these things is broken but considered “normal and acceptable” then could that lead me to think that a broken relationship with God or other people (community) is actually “normal and acceptable”? I propose that it very much does.
For example many people have a similar relationship with food as they do with God.
Pull up to the drive-through window.
Get cheap food handed to me.
Throw packaging out of the window (or, if not totally bereft of decency, in a garbage can).
This is a consumer, short-sighted, stagnant way of thinking. We treat food like its only purpose is to fill our empty bellies. Food is designed for so much more. Food should be of a quality that nourishes our bodies, giving us sharp minds and physical strength. Meals should be shared with others to provide a time of relationship building. Who has time for a healthy, family dinner anymore?
Don’t many of us view God with the same consumer, short-sighted, stagnant mindset?
Go to church (maybe, if I feel like it).
Hear the sermon (get fidgety and start hint-coughing if lasts more than 30 minutes).
Eat the part that I like.
Throw the rest out the window (maybe not in public, but at home it surely goes in the trash).
We treat God like He is there to fulfill a cultural obligation so we can check the made-it-to-church box or any other religious-looking-thing-we-do box. God wants so much more for us. He died on that cross in order to purchase our freedom from slavery, slavery to sin. Salvation! He wants us to have peace that surpasses understanding, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and so much more! What are we going to do with that kind of love??? We can either consume it in a self-centered way or exude it in a God-and-others-centered way.
Envision a stagnant pond compared to a fountain. When we are a dead-end for water that comes to us, we tend to get pretty scummy. But when we allow the water that comes to us to fill us up and overflow into others there is only life giving water amply supplied to those around us. We should think with a giving, eternal and dynamic mindset!
Be good stewards of your resources. Eat healthy food with other people as often as you can. Spend money wisely. Recycle what you can. Turn from your sin. Receive the love of Christ. Give your life to Him. Invest in time with Him and His people. Love others (including the lost) as yourself. Love God with all that you have and are!
Today, ask the Lord to reveal areas of your life where you are being a self-centered consumer. Consider your three circles (relationships) with the environment, with others and with God. Hmmm, maybe I’ll ask a friend to help me with trip number 12, so we can, umm, build a better relationship. Yeah, that’s it.