Tikkun Olam: Repairing The World
Some time ago I wrote a message on bal tashchit, which is a Hebrew phrase that means “do not destroy”. Another related Hebrew phrase is sidrei bereshit, and it means “the order of Creation”. Put together they could formulate a single concept: Do not destroy the order of Creation. Sadly, we live in a day where humanity as a whole has strayed far from such a concept.
Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15 present us with the primary purpose for humanity’s placement on the Earth. We were created by God to care for the whole of His Creation. Revelation 11:18, in contrast, warns us that there will come a day when God will destroy the destroyers of Creation. I believe that this applies to those things that are destroying large segments of the planet and contributing to the loss of species through extinction, but I also believe that it applies to the most minor acts of destruction. Take for example what people today do to their own bodies—from people eating unhealthy fast foods and heavily processed “food products” filled with all sorts of unnatural “additives” (neither of which should even be called “food”) to the use of “hygienic products” like fluoridated toothpaste or aluminum containing antiperspirants to smoking cigarettes to marking their flesh with tattoos and brandings. This is all a part of the destruction of this world, as everything on the planet is a part of the planet—the Creation of our God.
While bal tashchit draws attention to what would be classified as a “negative” instruction, DO NOT destroy, there is an equally powerful “positive” concept found in Jewish thought that Christians would do good to learn. Tikkun olam is a phrase that means “repairing the Earth”. It is often applied to both ecological efforts to promote life on the planet and also to efforts supporting social justice. I want to take some time to focus on the ecological side of tikkun olam. This is not to minimize social efforts that support humanitarian aid, such as feeding people in third world countries or helping to restore a region that has been ravished by a natural disaster. Certainly this is very important, but there is also no real question in the mind of the modern “Christian” that such things are the duty of God’s people.
Unfortunately, very few in Christianity today give much thought to the care of the planet. It would be good for the modern Christian to read books from great thinkers like Joel Salatin, Professor Calvin DeWitt, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, or Dr. Christopher J.H. Wright who says in his book The Mission Of God: Unlocking The Bible’s Grand Narrative:
The care and keeping of creation is our human mission. The human race exists on the planet with a purpose that flows from the creative purpose of God himself. Out of this understanding of our humanity (which is also teleological, like our doctrine of God) flows our ecological responsibility, our economic activity involving work, productivity, exchange and trade, and the whole cultural mandate. To be human is to have a purposeful role in God's creation.
And so we come to a point where we live among a humanity that has chosen to destroy the planet for the sake of it’s own comfort and convenience. Christianity also does not do a lot to counter this with its warped view of “dominion”, where many believe that The Bible calls us to use any and all “available resources” without regard to the consequences on Creation. The belief of many is that God put everything else on this planet for humanity’s benefit. This is completely backwards to what we read in the Genesis record—humanity was put on this planet, by God, for the benefit and care of all other life.
We need to exercise caution with the misinterpretation of “dominion”. It creates a “god-complex” where people act as if they are the supreme rulers of this planet. This ideology is plaguing modern Christianity. I even heard a preacher recently declaring the year 2020 to be the initiation of a “decade of dominion”. His reasoning was that the Hebrew year was 5780, which is represented by the Hebrew letter “pey”, and in the ancient pictograph Hebrew this represents an open mouth. He declared to his congregation on the first Sunday of the secular year 2020 that it was the first Sunday of the Hebrew year 5780—apparently he forgot that the Hebrew calendar begins on Rosh Hashanah and 5780 began September 29, 2019.
There are, of course, several problems with this. Using such interpretation of ancient pictograph Hebrew symbols has been shown by experts in ancient Semitic language to be a very sketchy process of creating theories that often turn out to be nothing more than wild sensationalism. On top of that, there really is no way to know for sure if the Hebrew calendar year is correct and it is almost certainly not. So any prophetic significance that may apply to a particular Hebrew calendar year is probably a hidden mystery that only God truly knows. This would mean that if there is a “decade of dominion” associated with the Hebrew year 5780 and the Hebrew letter “pey” it almost certainly did not start on September 29, 2019, and it definitely did not start January 1, 2020 on the secular calendar.
Calling out some prophetic “decade of dominion” based on the misunderstanding of the word “dominion” in The Bible and giving strange meanings to a letter from an ancient language essentially sets up professing Christians to be the “destroyers of the Earth” we are warned about in John’s Revelation. I highly recommend you do not get wrapped up in such warped views of The Bible. We are called to steward and repair Creation, not rape and pillage it. Dominion, as used in Genesis 1:26-28, is about stewardship of Yahweh’s Creation. It’s not about “dominating” anything.
The True Gospel
Recently I was able to share a wonderful experience that truly fits the spirit of tikkun olam with my daughter. We found some monarch caterpillars in the flowers, as we often do in late August and early September. We put them in a small screened bug box and fed them until they formed their chrysalis.
Then one day the box was accidentally knocked over and one of them broke off from where it was hanging. I tried to gently see if I could get it to hang inside the box again, but it was to no avail. So we took the chrysalis and some sewing thread and I tied it to a branch in the flower garden.
I let my daughter know that it got knocked around pretty good when the box fell and I didn’t know if it would hatch out, but we can try to save the butterfly. Well, several more days went by and sure enough I noticed that you could see the orange and black wings of the butterfly forming. Not too long after that the butterfly hatched out and my daughter was so relieved that we saved its life.
This is a great example of the little things we can do on any given occasion to support tikkun olam. Our primary mission and purpose on this planet is to see to it that all other life flourishes.
What is a small thing you can think of to promote life on our Father’s planet?
This may be a question you don’t think about much or it may be something you’ve never considered. But we are given a mandate in the first two chapters of The Bible, the only part of Scripture that predates humanity’s fall to sin, to care for the rest of our Father’s Creation.
I shared an article not so long ago that I came across, titled These Beautiful Wildlife Bridges Are Saving Animal Lives. The article covers land bridges that are being built over busy freeways and landscaped with grass, flowers, trees, and even ponds. It is a wonderful project that allows wildlife to safely cross these high-speed traffic areas.
While I don’t know if it’s actually true, I have heard in the past that deer are responsible for more human deaths than any other animal today. The claim is based on human deaths as a result of automobile accidents that involved deer running out in front of people driving. This, of course, is an unpredictable event and I can say that I have seen a lot of deer tragically killed along the side of the road in my life. How many people are killed in such accidents I am not certain of, though I am sure there are statistics available to anyone who would want to look into it.
Now, I am a proponent of hunting for food, and deer are among the top animals hunted by people in the United States. They are a biblically clean ruminant and my research into Genesis 9:3, which I have shared about in other messages, concludes that Noah was specifically given wild ruminants that would be hunted for food—as opposed to the misleading text of most English Bibles that causes people to think Noah was permitted to eat every kind of animal without regard to the food laws. Genesis 7 confirms that Noah knew the clean/unclean animal food laws before the flood, so it doesn’t seem to make sense that God, who changes not, would tell Noah that he was allowed to ignore them. Similar to what a lot of preachers today like to say about tithes, the food laws are established before Moses—in this case at least as early as Noah.
Anyhow, I was saying that I am a proponent for hunting, however I find it absolutely tragic when one of my Father’s creatures are killed for no good reason at all. It saddens me to see deer or any other animal dead along the roadside because it was struck by a car. This is not at all in harmony with principles like bal tashchit or tikkun olam.
So I shared the article (about the landscaped bridges) and said that I found it to be more “The Gospel” than most of what I have heard in Christian Churches. I also noted how it is Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15 in action. If we humans must have these automobiles that are so deadly just so we can go places faster than we can without them or travel further than we can without them, then bal tashchit and tikkun olam mandate us to come up with ways to prevent wildlife from being senselessly killed by them and provide ways that promote life. These bridges are a prime example of this.
Interestingly, there were people who read things into my words that I didn’t actually say because somehow they could not comprehend that caring for Father’s Creation is a part of The Gospel—and not just a part, but really the goal. Yeshua died and rose again for the restoration of all things. He went to the cross to redeem a fallen world, not just a fallen humanity. He told us to preach The Gospel to every creature, not just every human.
I realize there are people who can’t comprehend this type of thinking, their religious mindset prevents them from seeing the bigger picture in all of this. There are still some Christians that contest humanism, but ultimately that’s what the entire “Modern Church System” is: humanist religion. The very idea behind saving souls and then turning them into the religious faithful is really a humanist concept. The model of most Churches today is all about people—they need to fill seats and get volunteers. That’s a form of humanism!
Most people in religion today actually believe that salvation is about securing a place in heaven. There are those who hold higher standards of how a saved person should act in this present world than others, but ultimately they all believe the purpose of salvation is to be right with God so you can spend eternity in heaven instead of hell.
The saving of a human soul is merely the first step in returning to the pre-fall purpose that a person was created for. Don’t let religion stop you at that first step and turn you into another religious person faithful to some Church. If people really understood the biblical purpose of fellowship, Churches would be empty but true Believers would be living truly biblical lifestyles. In the writings of the Apostles—what Christians wrongly call the “New Testament”—we see nobody “going to church” because “church” had not yet been invented. They went to the Synagogue gatherings on The Sabbath, which at that time were nothing like a modern Synagogue or Church, and other than that they met daily from house to house. But that is a message for another time.
The entire purpose God created humanity was and remains to be the caretakers of His Creation. He even set apart one day of the week to do nothing but rest from labor and celebrate His Creation—The Sabbath, the seventh day of the biblical week, that begins sunset Friday night and concludes sunset Saturday night, using terminology from the modern calendar system.
The true Gospel leads us back to a place where we assume a role in the care of our Father’s Creation. It is one that cares for all life, including but certainly not limited to our own. The true Gospel causes you to shun things that poison and pollute both your own physical body that Father gave you as well as fighting to not pollute His world and thus harming other forms of life that He created and He loves.
I can tell you I take this very serious. I buy the eco-friendly plant-based laundry detergents, dish soaps, shampoos, and such because I do not want to put anything harmful toward life into the environment if I can prevent it. In the same way I am mindful of what I eat and what I refuse to eat. When it comes to food my first criteria is that it meets the standards of food laid out in Scripture, like the food laws of Leviticus 11, and then I look to see that it’s not made with any weird man-made “ingredients” that are potentially harmful to me or any other living thing.
Think of it like this. What if I was eating some processed junk food filled with weird ingredients. Now let’s say I dropped some of this so-called “food” item on the ground and some animal like a squirrel or a bird came along and ate what I dropped. Then, even if I am not aware of it, an unnatural food additive in it caused the animal to develop a cancer and it died. Would I not share some of the responsibility for that happening? And how would that make the Father feel, that such a senseless act killed one of His creatures for no good reason at all?
You may think that this is a bit over-the-top, but is it really? Think about it. I am talking about developing a mindset that says we love our Father, The Creator, enough to love all of His Creation and take up our mandate to care for all life on the planet He gave us. When the rest of the world, including a majority of professing Christians, is destroying His Creation, we need to rise up and first set our mind toward bal taschit (do not destroy) and then toward tikkun olam (repairing His world). This is the ultimate goal of The Gospel message.
Small Steps, Big Change
Several years ago I had the opportunity to join a senior medical doctor with the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs for a private lunch. It was a nice encounter. The man said something interesting that I think really illustrates how to make the changes needed to repair the world we live in.
He said that it was his belief that big change comes through small changes. He gave an example. He said that several years prior to our meeting he decided he wanted to start eating healthier. But instead of eliminating his entire diet and going all in with a healthy diet plan, he simply replaced one item in his typical meal with a single piece of fresh fruit. He said that this small change was easy to do and lasted the test of time because it was a small change.
Often times people “bite off more than they can chew” as the saying goes. They get a grand vision of something and they put everything they have into it. This leads to becoming quickly burned out and then the vision dies.
What can you do to bring positive ecological change that promotes the flourishing of God’s Creation? I think there are small steps that we can all take.
First and foremost, there are plenty of things written and commanded in Scripture that all Believers are supposed to be doing anyway that promote life. I have pointed out numerous times that eating unclean meats like pork and shellfish, in addition to the harm if poses in human health, can and does contribute to the destruction of entire ecosystems and the extinction of some plant and animal species. In case you need to be reminded, when a species becomes extinct, there is no bringing it back. At least not with the technology we have today, though some scientists believe they are closing in on the ability to revive woolly mammoths and possibly other creatures lost in history.
Every Believer should have no problem keeping commandments like the biblical food laws (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14). These are basic and they are the outright commandment of the God of The Bible. Another commandment is keeping The Sabbath, which celebrates the whole of Creation. These are commandments that drive us toward tikkun olam and bal tashchit. They are the foundation of fulfilling Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15.
Another thing you can do that is extremely beneficial is to start swapping products you currently use for eco-friendly products. Like I said earlier, I use soaps and shampoos that are plant-based, often using fully organic ingredients, that do not pose the threat to the environment conventional products do. Also, eating organic and all-natural foods not only contributes to your health and prevents you from throwing away “food products” that may pose a threat to Creation, but even raising foods through organic farming practices is clearly better for the world we live in. Christian authors and activists like Joel Salatin and Jordan Rubin have been working to show that organic farming practices are able to feed the world’s population without destroying the world. Those of us who place our faith in Yahweh would do good to pay attention to men like this paving the way for lasting change.
It’s not just food either. Think about the clothes you wear. Man-made fabrics like polyesters and such are extremely harmful for the environment through their manufacturing processes and there are indications they contribute to health concerns, particularly skin conditions at the very least. People don’t realize it, but these man-made fabrics are essentially made from plastic. Think about that, people are walking around wearing clothes made from plastic!
In contrast, think about traditional fabrics made from natural fibers like wool, cotton, and linen. These are all sustainable materials that do not pose the risk on the environment that factory-made fabrics do. Fabric made from plant fibers and animal hair is a never-ending resource. They were created by God and designed to regenerate. Buying clothes made from natural fabrics and using natural fabric dyes is good for the environment and likely better for your health. And aside from the commandment not to wear wool and linen together, you can easily find plenty of clothes that are 100% cotton, 100% linen, 100% wool, or in some other way made from all natural fabrics. And there are even organic cotton clothes showing up more and more in stores, which means that the cotton was raised using organic farming methods that are much better for the earth.
Another thing you can do to practice tikkun olam is growing your own foods, whether a little or a lot. Perhaps all you can do right now is to start an herb garden in your kitchen or plant a fruit tree in your yard. But even a small step leads to big changes worldwide. Maybe you can plant a garden or build a greenhouse and grow even more fruits and vegetables. In some areas people are even finding that they can raise chickens for eggs. There are a lot of little ways some people can raise their own foods with a little bit of training in basic gardening practices.
Wherever you are right now, there are things you can do to become better at stewarding Creation in fulfillment of Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15. It is sad to me that modern Christianity has turned the Bible into some type of handbook for domination. Nothing could be further from the plan and purpose of God for humanity. We are told to care for the planet he entrusted into our care. Humanity has done a lot of damage to the earth, but it’s not too late. Christians currently make up one third of the world’s population. Could you imagine what could happen if all Believers actually got a biblical understanding of dominion?
Perhaps there is a lot more I could say, but I want to leave this message where it is. I want you to simply take the thoughts I have shared and think on them a while. Maybe you have been taught differently in the past. Perhaps you have been trained in one of these unbiblical interpretations of dominion. But take some time, think about God as The Creator and the earth as His Creation. Think about your purpose in being a steward of His Creation. Think about ways you can practice first bal tashchit [do not destroy] and then tikkun olam [repairing the world].
~Blessings and Shalom~
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