15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Read the rest of the chapter here!)
God’s abundant earthly gifts to us
Gifts. Spiritual gifts of hope, reconciliation, and grace. These beautiful gifts are what Paul is talking about in this chapter. It got me to thinking how God gives so abundantly in so many ways, not just spiritually, but physically, too. Which makes our inability to share that much more heartbreaking. To illustrate just how abundant God is, and how recklessly we waste Xyr gifts, consider these statistics:
Food Waste and Feeding the Hungry: I think I’ve mentioned this statistic before, but if not, definitely go check out Amanda Littletrip’s book The Fate of Food, which has an illuminating chapter on food waste. It is estimated that the food waste in this country is somewhere between 162 – 218 BILLION dollars worth of food. That includes the stuff that rots in the fields, gets thrown out from grocery stores and restaurants, and dumped from our own refrigerators. Just one third of that wasted food would be enough to feed the 40 MILLION food insecure individuals in the US. We make so much food in this country that we could feed all the hungry three times over with our excess. Why aren’t we doing that?
Land mass, homelessness, and immigrants: This statistic isn’t as practical, but it’s more to illustrate a point. If you gave every single individual in the US an equal amount of land in the contingent 48 states, each person – not family, but person – would get six acres. To reiterate, this isn’t a practical statistic. If we actually went through with this it would leave no room for roads, hospitals, libraries, or grocery stores (not to mention Starbucks or Targets). But, considering how many houses are built on quarter-acre lots, or how many multi-family housing units exist, we have enough room to house everyone who wants to be here while still making room for smart agriculture, green spaces, and business.
The Solution to Climate Change: Alright, it’s not that simple, but I want to illustrate how God has provided solutions to problems we make ourselves, and trees are the perfect example. Depending upon how you calculate it, (there’s a great article here with a bunch of different statistics) a mature tree can sequester 48 pounds of carbon dioxide while producing enough oxygen for two people. Additionally, a mature tree has 10-30 acres of leaf surface area. When waving in the breeze, these leaves act like a broom, picking up impurities such as dirt, soot, or exhaust. Trees also seed clouds, provide food and habitat for wild animals and ourselves, and prevent soil erosion and flooding. Trees are literally a solution to problems of our own making with extra gifts thrown in. And that’s just trees – I haven’t even touched upon the carbon sequestering abilities of grasses or the oxygen-producing capabilities of sea plants.
I also haven’t touched upon the therapeutic possibilities of stem cells (even with some ethical questions they still show great promise), the nearly unlimited source of energy God has given us in the sun, and the vast amount of money that could be redistributed to alleviate poverty (again not a practical statistic, just illustrative: if the 10 richest Americans donated their net worth, each of the 38.1 million individuals below the poverty line would get over $12,000). God has given us abundant gifts. Why aren’t we sharing them with each other?
We need to start sharing
We all feel put upon in some way. I always have too much month at the end of my money. I never have enough time or energy after the kids are dealt with. But I’m finding small ways to make it work anyway. I take ten minutes out of my week to call my representatives. As discussed in my last blog post, I literally raid my change stashes so I can donate to causes I believe in. I make the effort to buy second-hand first because it is more ecologically sound: with online thrift stores this is easier and easier. I try to double up on errands while I’m out so I’m not burning gas needlessly. I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m telling you this to illustrate that we all can do a little better, this mindset of consideration and service is one that needs constant cultivation. I still have a long way to go: I use way more single use plastic than I’d like. It has been years – decades, maybe – since I’ve donated my time to a soup kitchen, clean-up crew, or similar activity. I don’t volunteer at the polls, the PTO, or church. But I’m trying in the ways that I can for now. And so can you.
Most importantly, we can demand change from our communities. Fostering a mindset of consideration and service in ourselves is important, but we want to change society as a whole. Here are some ideas as to how to do that (and I’d love if you add yours in the comments!): Attach your monthly book club to a cause – bonus points if you take a collection for a nonprofit or use your meeting time to occasionally volunteer. Suggest outreach activities at your church – especially if you have the time and talent to spearhead such an endeavor. Support businesses that have an ethos you can get behind, and stay away from those with practices you dislike. Finally, I can’t say this enough – talk to your representatives. Attend public hearings, and speak up! Call those congressmen and senators! Let them know your thoughts and that you are voting your conscious.
God has given us so, so much. The world is filled with the potential for healing, with beauty, resources for our every need. Even under all the abuse the Earth suffers, God’s gifts flow seemingly unending from it. The problem is, those gifts are hoarded by the greedy few. I truly believe the bounty of the Earth and the Spirit has no bounds. But in order to receive abundantly, we first have to give abundantly. It’s up to us to find out how much more blessed we could be if we took care of the Earth, and took care of each other. God has given us the resources to make it so. We are the only things standing in our way.
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