I love the idea of being “green.”
Buy organic; recycle; carbon offset; take public transport or walk, instead of taking the car – I am up for all of that.
And then my good thoughts and intentions come grinding to a halt. It comes down to one thing: money.
If you buy organic, your food will cost more. If you carbon offset, that is going to cost you money. It’s usually cheaper to drive than to go on public transport.
Saving the planet seems to be more expensive all round.
This has recently become an issue for me. Our children are growing, and we’ve recently moved to rent a bigger house.
Our lettings agent automatically set us up with a green electricity supplier known for using renewable energy, which seems a good environmental choice.
My initial thought is, “Great, let’s go with them for gas as well.” But as I speak to their customer services and get an initial quote, it’s soon apparent this will increase the bill by Â£40 (around $50) a month more than I used to pay. Can I afford that?
Conflicting thoughts run through my brain. Could I cut back on other things to afford using this firm? It would mean I would be helping the environment. But is it really?
So many firms claim they are green. Will I make a true difference by choosing to use them? Is it worth the sacrifice and financial difficulty to make a stand?
I then start to think about tithing and what God says about money. I associate giving to God with giving to my church and possibly giving to Christian charities.
Does God see me making a moral decision to pay more for organic food or a green electricity supplier as part of my tithe? Is it something that God would see as a faith-based decision or an optional extra?
The electricity supplier is not Christian, although they do care about God’s world. Is it right from a faith point of view to spend more on “good” energy, or is it best to look after the family that God has given me? I have a responsibility to them as well as the planet.
And do our individual actions make a huge difference? On their own, possibly not.
Advocacy and lobbying may be more helpful, bringing corporations and governments to account for their environmental actions collectively through organizations like The Climate Coalition, of which my employer, BMS World Mission, is a member.
Surely, if I’m doing my bit and others do too, then the powers that be will have to sit and listen?
Chris Goodall, in his book “How to Live a Low Carbon Life,” argues that companies and governments will not act on climate change and will “remain obdurately set in their ways” unless “by our own actions as citizens and consumers we can show… they should act now.”
“We cannot shift the responsibility for dealing with climate change onto others,” he said. “The responsibility belongs to individual citizens of the world.”
Brexit will mean that the United Kingdom will have to develop its own environmental protections. So, as individuals, keeping our politicians aware of how important creation care is will be even more vital.
So I do need to do something, but how much can I do with what I have? What does God want me to do?
The verse that immediately springs to mind is James 1:17. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Whatever we have, whether we have earned it, inherited it or got it cheap on eBay, is a gift from God. Whatever we have, it is not ours, it is God’s, given to us on loan.
We are stewards of our resources and this planet; we have to do the best with what we’ve been blessed with by God.
Therefore, although I may not be able to afford to do everything green or take absolutely every action to improve the planet, I’m called to do as much as I possibly can to use what I have responsibly.
As Kermit the Frog once sang, “It’s not easy bein’ green,” and ain’t that the truth?
But I, and we, have a responsibility to God and our fellow humans to be as green as we can.
Like the gift of the widow in Mark 12:41-44, it is the thinking behind what we give that is more important. God looks to our heart.
When money is tight, we can resist the temptation to purely focus on the bottom line, where it would lead to unethical decisions. After all, it is not just a question of finance. Cost is measured in many different ways.
Finding the balance between watching the pennies and caring for the planet will benefit the whole earth.
Chris Hall is the editor of BMS World Mission’s Engage magazine. A version of this article first appeared on the BMS website and is used with permission. You can follow Hall on Twitter @chrishallnewb and BMS @BMSWorldMission.