10 June 2021
Climate Justice - a fair balance
In the the fifth in a series of blogs, the Revd Simon Topping argues that our present relationship with the land, sea and air (and fellow human beings) is unbalanced and that the call for rebalancing in favour of sustainability that can be found in the Bible offers a guide for climate justice.
Paul encourages the Christian community in Corinth to give generously in order to support their fellow Christian community in Jerusalem who were struggling because of the impact of recent crop failure and famine in the local region. Paul says he is looking for a “fair balance” (2 Cor 8:13) between these two communities in light of the fact that the Corinthian community was experiencing relative abundance at that point in time and the Jerusalem community was suffering from hardship and a scarcity of resources. He seems to suggest that the favour could be returned in the future if the Jerusalem community were later to experience abundance and the Corinthian community scarcity.
This call for rebalancing in favour of sustainability is a theme that appears elsewhere in the Bible and speaks to our present call for climate and environmental justice. In particular the Jubilee and Sabbath laws demand a regular cycle of rebalancing. For human society, this rebalancing is to take place every fifty years: debts are to be cancelled, property and land is to be restored to the original owners and slaves are to recover their freedom. There is a balancing out between those who have more than they need and those who have less than they need, in order to achieve a truly flourishing and sustainable society.
And these same principles of balance are also applied to humanity’s relationship with the natural world around them through the Sabbath laws and the fallow year. For six years humanity is able to use the land to produce the crops necessary for healthy living. Over these six years the goodness of the land is gradually depleted, the nutrients are extracted, its fertility is exhausted. But then comes the fallow year in which the goodness of the soil can be recovered, its nutrients restored. The time of extraction is balanced by a time of replenishment. The same is true of the day of Sabbath rest when the six days of human and animal labour is balanced by one day of restoration. Biblical justice involves this principle of rebalancing.
But our present relationship with the land, sea and air (and fellow human beings) is unbalanced, and therefore unjust. Our present economic model extracts, depletes and exploits without opportunities for recovery and restoration. St Paul challenges us to seek a “fair balance” in a way that will allow the natural world to replenish its exhausted resources, and ensure a sustainable sharing of those resources amongst all who share this planet with us.
The Revd Simon Topping is a presbyter working in the Gloucestershire Circuit.
Read our latest news on Climate and Environment issues here.
More about how to get your Church engaged with a Climate Sunday service and commitments here and find out about what a group of young Methodists from around the world are doing to raise awareness here.