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For the generations to come.

Law and Creation (6)

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and
that you may prolong your days.” Deuteronomy 22.6, 7

A blessing for all times
This extract from the Law of God seems counter intuitive. Should we not eat the mature bird, which has so much more flesh, and leave the young ones to grow to maturity?

Except that those young ones would not likely flourish in the absence of caring parents. And the parents which produced those young ones, being consumed by our short-sightedness, will not be available to produce more.

The Law of God which teaches us to conserve fruit-bearing trees amid the ravages of war also teaches us to conserve generation-bearing creatures of all sorts, “that you may prolong your days.” The work of conservation has its origins early in God’s Law. In Genesis 2.15 God instructed Adam to “serve” the garden, to continue God’s own good work there, and to “guard” it against destructive influences.

God’s covenant, which includes His Law, is designed to ensure that His blessings reach to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12.1-3). This includes the families not yet born. God loves people, His image-bearers, and He is concerned for their welfare, and for the welfare of all His creation. The people whom God has redeemed for Himself and brought within His covenant and Kingdom will practice God’s plans and carry out His will for blessing the world. Thus, they will learn and keep the requirements of an economics of justice to demonstrate love for the generations to come, that those who come after us also might be able to enjoy the blessings of God and thus glorify Him.

As the people of God’s covenant, we do this in part by properly instructing children in the Word and works of God (Deut. 6; Ps. 78.1-8; etc.). We want our children and their children to grow up knowing and loving God and learning from Him the principles of neighbor-love that will benefit all people.

But we also fulfill our calling within God’s covenant by honoring the creation around us in ways that conserve its fruitfulness for the generations to come. In our day, “conservation” has become associated in the minds of many with environmental extremism and liberal politics. But the idea of conserving the fecundity of creation for the generations to come begins in the Law of God, which is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12). Policies promoting conservation within the larger framework of an economy of justice and love should thus be a concern for all believers.

Healthy and productive
Environmental science has learned much about ecosystems and how they may be conserved. It is consonant with an economics of justice and love, as our text suggests, to apply the best principles of conservation to the resources of the environment to keep the land and its creatures healthy and productive for the generations to come.

We may not agree with every environmental policy or group, but we must try to learn from them what we can and to sift their programs through the grid of God’s Law to learn the best ways of conserving the creation for the future. The folly of previous generations, eager more to consume than to conserve, has caused the annihilation or near-annihilation of important species—the buffalo, for example, or the carrier pigeon.

Conservationists are right to insist that we must discipline our consuming passions. We must not exploit the creation because of short-sighted, self-serving practices; rather, we must commit to policies and practices that both allow the creation to fulfill its purpose as God’s servants (Ps. 119.89-91) and to continue flourishing for the benefit of generations to come.

Culture, too
The same applies to the culture we make and use to bring the blessings of God to men and the praise of men to God. We must take care of our property and possessions, steward our business and work responsibilities, and take an active interest in the “upkeep” of our communities. We should also seek out the best of culture from past generations to enjoy and share with one another and our children.

Further, the Christian heritage abounds with artifacts, institutions, and conventions of culture which it is our duty as God’s covenant people to understand, appreciate, and enjoy, as well as to conserve. Christianity has made positive contributions to all facets of cultural life. We must not ignore these nor fail to appreciate and conserve them for our children. Would we enjoy the works of Johann Sebastian Bach as many do today were it not for the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn to make his works more widely known in his day? Would Christian children today have the benefits of home schooling and Christian classical schools without parents and educators who have worked hard to bring forward these benefits from our rich cultural heritage to our own generation?

A rich liturgical heritage is in danger of being lost today—hymns, creeds and confessions, holy days—because of neglect and our lust for all things “contemporary.” Would we even have churches and liturgies and glorious music to sing were it not that such cultural creations have been faithfully conserved and transferred to us by our forebears?

An economy based on consumption is not as likely to be thoughtful about the future as one based on justice and love. The divine economy, revealed in the Law of God and all His Word, calls us to conserve the benefits of creation and culture for all generations and points the way for us, as stewards of God’s trust, to take steps to accomplish that result.

For reflection
1. How has the failure to conserve aspects of creation or culture negatively impacted us in this generation?

2. How do the ideas of “serving” and “guarding” apply to your use of creation and culture?

3. How does your church seek to conserve our Christian heritage for the generations to come?

Next steps—Preparation: Spend time in prayer, seeking the Lord to understand your role in conserving creation and culture. Ask Him to show you specific ways you can fulfill this aspect of your covenant and Kingdom calling.

T. M. Moore

What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, by clicking here.

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ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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