Have you ever been stung by a bee? Me too!
I just built rapport by establishing common ground in my introduction. So, based off what I learned in high school English, you (the reader) now need to keep reading!
I purchased my first beehive in 2012, but not quite for the reasons you may think.
Sure, there’s nothing so delicious as eating honey straight from the hive, and the educational aspects for my family have been Ivy League-ish.
Did you know honey bees are the only insects that make food edible to man?
Did you know honey never spoils?
Did you know the language of honey bees is the second most complex language in the world (second only to human language)?
But there was a more dynamic reason for my leap into beekeeping. I must admit the concept wasn’t fully formed when I began, but it has since taken shape into a full-on personal movement.
I keep bees for the same reason I have a vegetable garden, hunt, fish, and recycle. God has called us to ecological stewardship. But before you think that I’m some dirt-worshipping freak, we need to acknowledge some of God’s truth on the subject.
The Creation is Good
Contrary to ancient philosophers, this mortal coil we carry is in fact a beloved creation of God. The Creation account dispels any notion that this universe was anything other than “good.” Yes, since then it’s been mangled by sin, but no where in the Bible does God lead us to believe that His creation has somehow lost the value it had when it was perfect. Yet there are two things in particular that drive many Christians away from creation.
Fear – Modern technological advances have reared a generation of young people completely detached from the living creation. I’ve been the director of a camp for seven years and cannot tell you the number of children I’ve seen blanch at the thought of sitting in the grass to eat a picnic lunch. It’s sad that nature has become this place that must be tolerated in the few short seconds it takes to get from building to vehicle and back again.
Ignorance – Another consequence of our post-industrial age is that most of us don’t need to know how anything is made in order to enjoy it. I’ve joked that in the advent of a zombie apocalypse, I would be relatively no good in trying to rebuild this country in that I have no skills in carpentry or building cell towers. But I do know about food production . . . and I think that’s more important. Unfortunately, most people I run into have no idea about farming, gardening, hunting, fishing, beekeeping, or anything else that can meet the basic needs of human sustenance. Sometimes the ignorance is understandable in that the person has never had to think about it, but sometimes the ignorance is intentional, and that’s sad.
Steward the Earth
Part of God’s stated purpose in creating man was that he should “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” The Hebrew word translated “rule” means literally to exercise dominion over and subdue. It’s a strong word with a precise definition.
Man was created (in part) to possess this creation. This mindset, removed from the entire canon of Scripture may produce an abusive ecology of stripping and wasting. But the Christian knows he cannot subtract a single verse and interpret it apart from the rest of God’s revealed truth.
For this reason we must dig deeper than the common passages concerning the environment.
Intelligent Stewardship – Leviticus has much to say about rotating crops, letting the land rest, and allowing plants to grow in healthy, profitable ways. Nothing should be attempted ignorantly. Wisdom learns, understands, and learns some more. We must be knowledgable about this earth and how God desires it to work.
Efficient Stewardship – It’s true that I Corinthians 14 is talking primarily about the use of spiritual gifts in the church, but it’s also clear from the entirety of Scripture that God is a God of order. This cannot apply only to speaking in tongues and prophesying. He created the world in an orderly fashion, He desires worship and service to be orderly, and He commands us to redeem the time and count the costs. When we disrupt the normal created order to mass-produce unhealthy products for the grasping fingers of consumer-oriented mini-kingdoms, we dismiss the way God intended His creation to function.
Gentle Stewardship – Our concept of fairness is generally not biblically informed, and yet the command to be gentle applies not only to people, but has application even to our animals. In I Timothy Paul acknowledges the practice of not muzzling an ox as it threshes because even the animal is deserving of remuneration for its work (Deuteronomy 25:4). Please understand, we have the right to kill animals in order to put food on our plates and provide for our necessities, but I believe the Lord is not glorified by inhumane treatment of animals. There is no reason to cause an animal to suffer by spending its entire life lying in its own feces just so everyone can have bacon on Saturday. (Sorry Bacon Coalition :-)
Using these and other principles concerning wastefulness, I have started to live by a principle called Sanctified Sustainability. The ideas are not perfectly formed yet, but I’d like to share with you some of my goals:
- God is to be worshipped, not nature. Please read my text: DO NOT MAKE AN IDOL OF CREATION. I don’t care how worthy the cause, if you devote more time and energy and money to it than you do to Christ, you are worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. Romans has some very uncomfortable things to say about people in that position. Our ecology must be motivated by our love for God. We must reduce pollution because we love God. We must protect endangered species because there’s absolutely no Christ-honoring reason we should wipe them out. God must be at the center of all we do. He is the motivation. His glory must be our sole goal.
- Waste is to be avoided at all costs. Waste is a sin. We are to do our best at all times in all things. Wasting food, money, time, and resources is a sin. This is reason enough to cook only what will be eaten. This is why we shouldn’t buy clothes simply to throw them out when our favorite designer creates a new line. This is why we use the technology God has blessed us with to spread His truth, not merely go on hour long temple runs.
- Resources must be used to the best of their ability. Why do we spend so much money on grass? Have you ever really considered the resources you pour into keeping your lawn looking like a shag carpet? To what end? Aesthetics? What if each lawn became a garden with multiple purposes? What if it not only was a gorgeous display of God’s creation, but also produced food and encouraged beneficial animals and insects to flourish there? I’m sure your money could be used in greater ways for the cause of Christ than merely keeping your lawn pretty.
- Abuse must stop; conservation must start. I dislike animal mills because not only do they mass produce unhealthy, low-quality meat for the protein packed menus of obese Americans, but they also subject the animals to appalling “living” conditions. Again, I don’t support PETA, and I think people go way too far personifying animals, but I don’t believe the Christian can glorify God when he eats if he blithely ignores the fact that God’s creation is being abused to provide his heart-disease on a bun. This is also the reason I keep bees. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating up to 3/4ths of the food we eat, and yet no one can figure out why all the bees are dying. I say “no one,” but of course, I mean “no one with something to lose by admitting what’s really killing the bees” has any idea. Conservationist and environmentalists seem to know that GMO’s and pesticides are to blame, and yet we turn a blind eye to the problem because the average Christian American is too lazy to learn. How many bees have to die before we step up?
Should You Keep Bees?
Many of you shouldn’t keep bees. Some of you won’t be allowed to keep bees because where you live, and some of you shouldn’t do it because you’re deathly allergic to stings (collective shudder over “My Girl” flashbacks). There are others who have absolutely no time in your schedules because you pour yourself into the work of God.
But for those of you with plenty of space and a sliver of time I ask, “Why not?”
The broader question is, are you going to take seriously God’s command to rule over this world with all of the biblical requirements of a faithful steward?
For many of you, this may be a call to buy organic, raise bees, have a garden, or start a blog to teach people about sanctified ways of eating, living, and sustaining what God has given us.
But for most of us, the call is to do 3 things:
- Know God’s Word. If you don’t know God’s thoughts on our stewardship responsibilities for this planet, how can you keep them?
- Understand the truth about your food. Can you “eat or drink . . . all to the glory of God” if you don’t know your food has been abused, made unhealthy by over-ambitious genetic engineering, or created in a wasteful manner?
- Don’t waste. There is no excuse for any of us to add to landfills because we feel we “need” a new couch when our old one is perfectly fine. Sell it. Give it away. But consider whether or not that’s the best thing God want’s you spending your money on. Dave Ramsey shared this simple article to show us a tiny sliver of the things average people throw their money away for: “10 Things Americans Waste Money On.” Most of us do not think about this the way we should.
Imagine the sadness that will overwhelm our hearts when we stand before our Lord and find that though we cared very much for sharing the gospel and proving for the needy, we greatly displeased our God by not glorifying Him in our eating and drinking and day to day living.
Join me in worshipping God not just on Sundays or when sharing His saving grace, but in every moment of our days at work and home, whether we’re creating, cultivating, or throwing away our garbage.