August 30, 2015
ORDINARY 22 (B)
All good giving & every perfect gift is from above. – James 1: 17
We hear much nowadays about environmental pollution, but we do not need the news media to tell us the problem is real enough. Our waterways are filthy, & each year the quality of our drinking water goes down while the cost of purifying it goes up. Naturally, the hue & cry is motivated by a selfish concern with self-preservation.
But I think we as Christians have another reason to be concerned, namely, stewardship. This word is usually thought to mean money, but that is only one part of what it means. The law of tithing, as old as the book of Deuteronomy, is simply a recognition of the fact that every good & perfect gift is from above. Furthermore, it is a basic Christian belief, based on the Book of Genesis, that after God had created the world He looked at it & called it good. That is why the Church has always rejected as heresy any approach that looks upon the world & everything in it as being intrinsically or irredeemably evil. It is not atomic energy or alcohol that is evil but what we humans do with these things.
Stewardship for the Christian means simply that everything we have is not of our own doing, but a gift from God. For us, there is no such thing as private property. We have been entrusted with the precious gift of life, both physical & spiritual, which is our duty to hand on to those who will follow us. If you like, we are trustees of an estate, & sooner or later every trustee must account for the job he has done on behalf of the client. In this case, the client is God, & He is never mocked nor fooled.
There is one article of Christian belief that is most important for us to remember: the physical & spiritual aspects of humans cannot be separated. What happens in one area affects the other. The exploitation & abuse of our most basic resources is but a symptom of a yet more basic problem. Man’s inhumanity to man & the rape of the environment are both directly traceable to sin, that is, selfishness. Both environmental & social pollution are made possible by spiritual pollution. Conversely, just as physical health can affect mental health, so also overcrowded & dirty living conditions can poison the soul & lead to a dog-eat-dog attitude toward life, crime, or escapism in the form of drugs & alcohol.
Ultimately, the only way this vicious circle can be broken is through Jesus Christ, & it is long overdue for us to recognize this fact. The Christian faith is above all realistic, & those who thought they could ignore this faith as a relic from a bygone age are now discovering that they have sown the wind only to reap the whirlwind. If Christ had truly been worshipped by a majority of Americans, neither racism nor pollution would be issues today.
In the long run I doubt that self-preservation is a sufficient motive to fight either of these modern plagues – humans are notoriously short-sighted. It is an obligation of all Christians to be missionaries of the Gospel, but that Gospel makes us our brother’s keeper. That is one reason why we build hospitals & feed the hungry. The one thing that can sustain us in this struggle is the realization that every good & perfect thing is from above. AMEN!