The Common Good

Sustainability: God's Gift and Charge

God created the earth to produce every thing Adam and then Eve — and then their issue, and then all of us — would need. In the beginning, the garden needed little tending, but — due to a rather fortunate fall — eventually Adam and Eve, as his helpmate, and their children and the issue of generations had to toil the earth to pull from the garden those things God intended to meet their needs. 

Along the way, progress was made in the form of extensions of the garden bounds, the distribution of water and other nutrients, applications of healthful foods and herbs, techniques for every aspect of garden production. A community grew from a couple who worked hard as stewards, first out of penance and then, I think, out of love for the land provided to sustain them and for each other as they worked together. This is the story of how sustainability came to be. 

To simplify: God created the Heavens and Earth. He designed a glorious garden and put in it everything needed to make that garden productive: plants, water, clean air, soil, enrichers (bugs, worms, life, decay), animals, and the Sun, the first and last fuel. And, finally, He made man and woman. 

But get this: with the cosmos at God's fingertips, the imagination that had spun what mattered to God into Matter, any means the mind of God could dream, God took a ball of clay from the earth to roll and knead into the figure of a man created in God's own image, to fill the role God fulfills every nanosecond — Creator, Steward, Sustainer. In this paradise, the earth sustaining them by the design of God, Adam and Eve, children, failed to understand the rules, allowed the Serpent to mislead them, surrendered to temptation, and fell from grace. 

Now the fruits of the garden required labor, and the fruit of their knowledge produced children, and God made each to tend the land. Decreeing that (hu)man(ity) must toil the earth, and the female body would endure great pain as it produced progeny, God leveled judgment and retribution. 

For centuries, millennia, humanity has read this as punishment only and worked ever harder to make life easier, to put food on certain tables by less work, to create stations and classes to ensure that some men and women might live like gods on earth while others must toil for the sustenance of these demagogues and take meager droppings from such sumptuous tables.

These are the actions and insights of cleverly disobedient children. Look again to the garden. Clay pulled from the earth was rolled and kneaded to build the body of man, and a rib from that man was taken as frame for the next of the great master's works. This was done not to subordinate one to the other but to illustrate that humanity is connected inextricably and that each of us extends from the earth God created to sustain (house, feed, entertain, educate) us and that no great good can come from doing anything other than caring for the earth and every living thing that calls it home. 

In the beginning, God created everything that would ever be needed to do everything that could ever be done. And in God's own image God made man and woman to live within this design, to work to know the pleasures of creation, and to produce and enjoy the fruits of such labor. And that which disobedient children perceive as punishment was gift. 

Anyone who has ever worked to produce or deliver his or her own food, ungrudgingly, must know some benefit of hard work. And if they do not, this is a failure of their being. And the labor assigned to woman is the greatest gift that any human might know. In this, God reveals deep, boundless love — the closest humanity comes to the truest creative spirit. And from the body of man and woman, and through the glorious channel of woman alone, comes new hope with every baby born. Everyone who has ever been since, and every one who will ever be, comes through the body of woman. The failure of some, or many, to appreciate such gift, such love, is — again — a failure of being. 

In a perfect world, every human would enjoy working hard to care for the earth, to produce what was provided, to create and deliver into the world new hope. But that garden is far behind us, and humanity loses sight vigorously every day of the gifts some retributions become. 

Anyone who would see sustainability as the nefarious big issue in the 2012 election, or any other election for that matter, has lost sight of God's intention. In fact, sustainability harkens back to Genesis, not merely as it is described in The Book, but also since it was designed even before the figures of man and woman were placed in the very first sustaining/sustainable garden. Intentionality is key to such sustainability. God decreed in Genesis that humanity must work to sustain itself, that no life should be easy — this in response to the foolish actions of people. Describing the work to be done, God decreed the intention and outlined the intentions of humanity. 

Redistribution of wealth is a more costly issue than some might imagine. Like children fighting over toys, someone will always desire to have more than others — and that seems fair if they have worked harder. Still others will seek to do little but have enough, and that seems unfair and unlikely. Regardless of the work to be done and the profits to be gained, that inextricable link between humans serves as reminder from God that one of our intentions must be to care for each other. Of clay and rib, no matter how far we move from each other, humanity is one great big organism designed by God, linked by creation, created to sustain itself and to care for the planet home provided. Some will balk at this perception, but I suggest they read Matthew 25: 32-46 of their Bible for clarity.

It is the story Jesus tells here, long after humanity had begun to forget its role in the garden, that illustrates the continuity of this basic truth. What Jesus demonstrates in his assertion — what is done for "the least of these" is done for him and what is NOT done for the least has been denied him — is the continuity and connection of humanity, one to each other and so on.

There can be no success for humanity where a portion of it is denied sustenance, the right to live and thrive. 

God created the garden, of which Jesus speaks as "kingdom" here, and all the tools. He told humanity how to proceed. When humanity left the garden things fell apart. And now humanity, afraid to face the consequences wholeheartedly, throws dirt at the face of God to proclaim being above the tasks assigned. 

A return to the garden requires intentional living and acknowledgment of sustainability as the glorious issue of this and any other election. 

Elect to work hard, to do good, to care for others, to accept provisions, to be better children and adults.

Treasure Ingels is a writer and mother of two living in rural, central Alabama where she and her family work to develop a forest garden to contribute to the sustenance of their town. In the garden, she and they reflect on many gifts, bounty. 

Photo: Sustainability image, danymages / Shutterstock.com

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