The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land (Leviticus 25:23-24).
Several years ago I thought long and hard about what would be the practical implications of every Christian land owner treated his or her land as truly belonging to our Creator. Over the course of some twenty years the following list of proposed principles has undergone a number of revisions. They are based on the biblical worldview and on core understandings about ecology and wise land use. Curiously (or maybe not), when I have proposed these to Christian land holders and real estate agents, they have mostly been met with silence.
Ponder these when you get few moments and then share your reactions in the comments box. I’d love to see a good discussion take place regarding them.
1. Being created in God’s image, I have a wonderful capacity to utilize the land for great benefit—for God’s glory, for my needs and those of my family, and for my neighbor in need. Yet I do not truly own the land; it belongs to God, and I am merely the land holder or steward of His property.
2. If I deliberately diminish or destroy the land’s capacity to fulfill God’s purposes as I have come to know them, there is a good possibility I am acting sinfully. One of those purposes is for the land and all that is on it to offer up praise to God. This is done in part by allowing the land to carry out its own work in maintaining the natural order—the God-created order that guarantees life and health to all the earth’s living creatures.
3. I must recognize that the land is a vital part of a vast and complex ecosystem that keeps all land healthy and productive. If I alter its function and nature without carefully considering its impact on the surrounding ecosystem, I am acting irresponsibly.
4. God expects me to use the land to meet not only the needs of my own family, but also the needs of its other inhabitants and of those who will be its stewards after me when I am gone.
5. I have a responsibility to care for and respect the living things that occupy the land. If I act without considering their needs and purposes, I am acting irresponsibly. Remaining ignorant of the ecological characteristics and importance of my land to excuse irresponsible behavior is not Christian.
6. I must not knowingly use the land in a manner that deliberately diminishes my neighbor’s landholdings and/or his livelihood.
7. As much as I can control the factors, I have no right to deliberately pollute or degrade the air that passes over the land or the water that passes through or under it.
8. If the previous tenants abused the land, I should consider doing all I can to restore it to its highest purpose for the glory of God.
9. I recognize that no use of the land is 100 percent sustainable, but understanding my responsibility to consider future generations and to avoid wastefulness, I must seek to keep the level of matter and energy loss on the land at a minimum.
10. While the idea of the rigidly ritualistic Sabbath seems to apply specifically to Israel in Old Testament times, there is a “Sabbath Principle” that goes back to the Genesis mandates regarding the need to cease work every seventh day—for my spiritual benefit and for the material benefit of the land. Land must not be pressed beyond its capacity to remain fruitful.
11. I must never let the land become a god to me. It is not the land I worship, but its Creator. My relationship with the land is brief; my relationship with the Creator is eternal.
If you’ve been a traveler along with me on this website for a while, you know that the thoughts of George MacDonald have long been a motivating factor in my seeking to live in accord with the biblical worldview and stay attentive to the Spirit. In one of his novels, one of MacDonald’s more godly characters said this about the desire to own land: “The true possession of anything is to see and feel in it what God made it for, and the uplifting of the soul by that knowledge is the joy of true having.”
God did not make the land merely for human use and does not preserve it just for human use. He takes joy in all His creatures and provides for them out of the same environment that gives us life and health. As population and technology pressure on the land increases, we must become more caring and more creative in preserving the health of the land for all its vital creatures—including even the sparrow, which is watched and cared for by its loving Creator.
[If you follow this link, you can read a PDF version of a longer article I have written on these principles---plus the principles of land development.]
[You can click on the photos to see them in larger size. I took these in Lancaster County, PA, a few years ago and used PhotoShop diffusion filters to give them a more artsy feel.]