I visited a church once where the leaders had recently been “blessed with a financial gift” and decided to spend it on a brand new Range Rover.
Now, if someone offered me a substantial amount of money I can’t promise that I would buy a bicycle and then give the rest to charity. But something didn’t quite sit right with me about childless church leaders splashing out on a new, gas-guzzling, carbon-manic off-road machine.
Of course, people’s money is their own, and they can spend it how they please. And maybe they really needed that much space. And doesn’t it say in Genesis that God gave people dominion over the Earth? So if it’s our Earth, we can do what we like with it. And also, doesn’t God love us in abundance, and want us to experience life in all its fullness? So if we want to buy a really big, expensive, flashy car then isn’t that in God’s plan for us?
The thing is, none of what we do is in a vacuum. As consumers in a global trade system we are all inextricably linked – all of us, to all of God’s people, in all countries. (Except perhaps North Korea. Not even Coca Cola is linked to North Korea.) Every single one of our choices directly affects hundreds – if not thousands – of people in this country and in the developing world.
This seems obvious when we’re talking about bananas – do we choose fairtrade fruit that guarantees a fair deal for the farmers who grow it, or not? But this is true of all of our choices. If you choose to increase your carbon footprint by driving an excessively large and inefficient car when really you could buy an electric model or even cycle, then someone somewhere (and it’s always the poorest people in the poorest countries) will suffer because they can’t grow their crops in the changing weather patterns the climate change that we have largely caused has brought about.
As humans, we have a vested interest in looking after our own environment and a moral duty to make life better for the world’s poor. As Christians, however, we have an even higher standard – we have a mandate and a calling to look after this Earth (that is not ours, FYI, we’re just looking after it until Jesus comes back) and to work for justice – alleviating poverty, looking after the orphans and widows etc.
So we kind of know all of this – but my question is: why aren’t we doing more? Why aren’t we leading the way with living green? Where are all the Christians lining up to buy bicycles and re-order their recycling bags from the council? Why do we fly over to Africa in the name of helping the poor and thereby break the planet even further instead of investing our time and money in projects and causes that will enable those very same people to lift themselves out of poverty?
How can we sing or speak about loving Jesus and loving our neighbour and then conduct our lives as if we and our convenience, our personal preferences are the only things that matter? Let’s be savvy citizens and look into the consequences of our choices before we make them. And as ever, David Mitchell puts it better than I ever could.