The 10th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Luther’s Small Catechism
What does this mean? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not entice, force, or steal away from our neighbors their spouse or workers, or livestock, but instead urge them to stay and fulfill their responsibilities to our neighbors.
The LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” hen David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! (2 Samuel 12:1-7a)
David was rightly outraged at the story of the rich man who mercilessly stole the poor man’s lamb for himself. We are, too. David had the power to do something about it; that man should die! However, David did not apply the story to himself. He is the merciless rich man because he took Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, for himself and had Uriah killed. How often do we hear a Bible story or, any tragic story and say, “those people were terrible,” but fail to apply it to ourselves? How we might be doing the same terrible things, perhaps in smaller ways, but nonetheless taking from the poor and needy to serve ourselves. The Christian life is constant repentance; self-examination of our own desires to use people, nature, and things to serve ourselves regardless of the costs to others. Repentance is turning away from using people and nature as a means to an end.
Let’s think of habitats others need to survive: For most of 4 billion years, other creatures didn’t need to compete with us wanting what they’ve got. Now, whether urban sprawl or using resources, we are changing habitats in our world. Agricultural land is drifting toward higher latitudes because of warming. Desertification affects over 2 billion people. A swath of plastics twice the side of Texas floats in the North Pacific Gyre. What is the problem with treating this whole planet as if it is here only for us?
Fight deforestation by using shade-grown coffees (and eco-palms!).
Look for the Forest Stewardship Council label for sustainably harvested papers (www.fscus.org/).
Plant trees from the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org/).
In October 2017, Lutherans mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with the occasion of Martin Luther writing his 95 Theses. As a church that is “always reforming,” we know that the good news of God continues to encounter us in our life. We are invited to look at classic Lutheran teachings in new ways. These daily summer devotions look at Luther’s Small Catechism through the Lens of Ecology & the Earth. Pastor Molly edited and adapted them from the website http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/