By Jenna Funkhauser
In the law of our broken world, it’s the strongest that survive. But as Christians, we understand that “the meek will inherit the earth.” We stand with the vulnerable, the voiceless, the helpless, because that is the way of Christ.
The Bible makes it clear that God is on the side of the underdog, and so should we:
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.
Many of us are familiar with these verses. We share them when we speak out against abortion, human trafficking, and many other injustices that exist in our society. But have you ever considered what these verses have to do with the stewardship of Creation?
Several recent reports by the World Bank and United Nations have confirmed that “those who did the least to cause climate change would be the first in the line of fire: the poor and the weak, and communities that were subjected to discrimination”. As average temperatures rise and extreme weather patterns increase, areas already vulnerable will be more quickly devastated by rising food costs, natural disasters, and less access to water.
“But what does this have to do with me?” You may be asking. I know I have asked the same question, as I feel small and powerless in the face of threats such as famine and natural disaster. So how can we be better stewards of the earth, and “give justice to the weak and fatherless”?
Here at a few examples of where poor stewardship causes the vulnerable to suffer, and what we can do about it:
- Fashion: The fashion industry creates more pollution and waste than any other industry in the world today, other than oil. Our demand for lots of cheap clothing is devastating communities around the world. Many men and women are also exploited through factory work, too desperate to provide for their families to leave abusive and dangerous situations. When we support companies who treat their workers fairly and take responsibility for industrial waste, we are protecting some of the most vulnerable populations in the world.
- Technology: Slave labor is commonly used to mine the metals and minerals needed to create our cell phones, laptops, tablets, and much more. Because the mining is done illegally, the slavemasters are under no regulations to treat the earth or their workers with respect. Illegal mines have even been found in the heart of protected rainforests and world heritage sites.
- Transportation: The amount of CO2 produced by our car-centered cities is wreaking havoc on the Earth’s weather patterns. As mentioned earlier, many of the world’s poorest countries are already being hit hardest with the effects of our Western lifestyles. When we commit to intentionally taking action in reducing the amount of carbon we create, we are committing to stand up for those who have no means of standing up for themselves, or changing the system that is destroying their communities.
As Christians, if we donate money towards organizations working to end poverty and exploitation, but then use the rest of our time and resources contributing to the very factors which feed this vulnerability, are we really loving our neighbors well? Are we being considerate of our global sisters and brothers in Christ, and bearing one another’s burdens as the Scripture commands?
In my own life, recognizing how my choices impact my global neighbors has been revolutionary. Although I’m learning to remain full of grace for less than perfect solutions, it’s profoundly meaningful to know that my seemingly insignificant choices have a much larger and cumulative impact.
Robert Perkowitz notes that climate change is “moving from an environmental issue to a public issue that is affecting everyone — all our communities, businesses, churches and hospitals. So, Americans are not just urging the government to take action, they are taking action themselves.” The time has come when climate change is no longer a “political” issue. Let’s take the commands of the Bible to protect the vulnerable and “correct oppression” seriously. We’re all in this together.