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BREAD AND STONES
All Scripture citations are to the King James (Authorised) Version
Question: In Matt. 7: 9-11, Jesus says: ʻWhat man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a [snake]? If ye, being evil [unrighteous], know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?ʼ
The extraction and burning of fossil fuels seems to have induced detrimental climate change. As earthʼs Maker, God arranged for the coal beds and oil deposits to be laid down for manʼs discovery and use. In light of subsequent environmental damage, can we conclude that God has given stones and serpents to his children, the human family?
Answer: The discovery of fossil fuels in abundance was once regarded as a blessing and an evidence of divine provision. Coal and oil were probably laid down long before Man was created; his exploitation of these resources accelerated during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century through to the present. And although the burning of standing trees and peat for fuel goes back to the dawn of human history, the population of earth being relatively small meant that the effects of carbon pollution were relatively trivial.
We live in an imperfect world, one which has been tamed and manipulated to a large degree in service of humanityʼs need for food, fuel and locomotion. To some extent this is a fulfilment of the decree given to Adam that he should tend or guard the earth, the implication being that mankind was awarded stewardship over the planet (Gen. 1: 26-28; 2: 15). When Adam fell he was cursed and things started to go downhill from then on. There is no way to know how history would have unfolded had Man himself not descended into sin and imperfection. He has had to make the best of things, and has been permitted by God to do so, under distressing experiences.
One might argue – as some probably do – that God is therefore responsible for the predicament that humanity faces today. This bold assertion can lead to complicated theological arguments, most of them based on the ʻwhat if things had been differentʼ principle; they often run into a dead end.
Of course, no one can read the future with accuracy. Dire predictions usually miss the mark. Besides, humanity has shown itself innovative and resourceful, and may yet solve the problem of climate change.
As for stones and serpents, the words of Jesus cited in the question are addressed to His disciples only and refer to spiritual resources – the gifts of grace, compassion and forgiveness which their Heavenly Father has for his believing child. God is not the Father of mankind under present conditions, for in the main they have no relationship with Him. This state of affairs will alter when the Kingdom of Christ is set up on the earth and mankind is raised from the dead and restored to sonship (Rom. 8: 20, 21). Then planet earth will be perfected and the climate repaired in some way – made like new (Rev. 21: 5).
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