The Arctic is alarmingly warm this year, in fact, 20 degrees hotter than usual. What scientists have been warning us against for decades is becoming reality. If nothing is done, we might see an enormous climate catastrophe that would kill and displace hundreds of millions.
The vast majority of scientists have also been telling us for years that we do far too little to stop climate change. Even if the relatively ambitious Paris Climate Accord is implemented by all countries, it will not be enough. And the outcome of the American election puts into question whether the Accord even will be implemented.
The main root cause of these problems is an industrially driven economic growth that is not restricted to areas that seem necessary and beneficial like better healthcare and education. The astonishingly high consumption level that has driven climate change for decades deals a lot with fashion, technology, entertainment and luxury products that we, if we’re honest with ourselves, simply don’t need.
Amazingly, the Bible taught contentment and restraint when it comes to material possessions thousands of years before the environmental crisis was a thing. The anonymous Christian author of the letter of Hebrews states: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said in a similar fashion: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15).
Paul even argues that our level of contentment should be restricted to mere necessities: “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim 6:6-8).
If humanity had taken these words more seriously, we wouldn’t have this environmental threat. Sadly, even many Christians have failed to follow this Biblical teaching. Many of us have been caught up in the system of this world that is unashamedly based on pure greed: profit maximisation and economic self-interest.
But the melting Arctic is a reminder that this greed will destroy millions of lives if we don’t repent, turn away from this sin and do the opposite. In fact, it already does. The reason why the Bible taught simplicity even before the environment was threatened is because simplicity is necessary for us to help the poor as much as possible.
John the Baptist argued that generosity requires sacrifice: “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11). John the Evangelist even says that God’s love cannot abide in us if we don’t share our stuff: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
So for the sake of both the poor and of creation, we should seek to have a simple lifestyle. This is something we have valued for a long time in the Jesus Fellowship, it is why nobody is richer than another in our communities and why we have abstained from decorating them with a lot of luxury items. We should live simply so that others might simply live. And as we realise this, God will help us in doing so.