Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

The measure and the end

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In the beginning, the point from which the measurement began.


I’ve been mulling over the phrase “the measure of creation” lately.

It is a teleological phrase. There is a purpose, an end, for every thing created. And there is also an end, as in a finishing point, for everything.

God created the earth, the plants, the animals, and saw that they were good, and then He commanded that they fulfill the measure of their creation. So the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle of the field, and all creeping things upon the face of the earth are here for a reason. At some point, when the imperative for which they were created has been satisfied, they no longer need be.

If all things were created for humankind, to delight the eye and gladden the heart, to give us fruit, sustenance from their flesh, then we are the measurers of creation. We judge and use, quantify and give things purpose based on their utility to us. Some of us are less practical and elevate the aesthetic qualities and even assign intrinsic value to those creatures and places, that although created by the hand of God, appear useless to our grasping little demands.

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If it no longer is, it no longer is useful, except as its absence becomes a cautionary tale. It a solemn new usefulness for something whose measure has ended.

I’d assumed for years that for an animal to “fulfill the measure of its creation” meant that the critter was able to live its life. To obtain food and shelter and reproduce. To do what it does, and what it does is what it was meant to do. But the finiteness of a measured thing has forced me to think in other ways about this phrase. Perhaps a species’ creation is measured not at its inception, by God, or during its existence by its own being or in relation to and by humanity, but by its final end. The passenger pigeon’s days have at last been numbered. It’s creation is ended, finally measured. 

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So it ended, and so it is measured.

Did that gregarious bird fulfill the measure of its creation? Did we artificially shorten that measure? I fear that while those created things are still good in the sight of God, we as measurers, the ones who individually use and collectively cause the ends of these created things, may not be judged to be as profitable servants, as diligent measurers, as is implicit in our divine charge have righteous dominion. As our actions cause extinctions, we find there is less creation to be measured, and that diminishes us all.

 

  • Nicol Sorenson-Legakis

    Rachel, I recently watched an expose on the meat industry. The images of how the chickens, pigs, and cattle were treated were truly horrifying. The chickens could barely move and never saw the light of day. Pigs were pinned down and forced to nurse piglets continually even though they looked extremely unhealthy, and the cows were all hooked to a large mechanism which “milked” them as it spun slowly in a circle. It was bizarre and gut wrenching to see the reality of how most live stock is treated before they make it to our super markets. It is not like the idyllic scenes of country farms. Quite the opposite. As I watched the documentary the same words came into my mind of “filling the measure of their creation” and I felt like weeping. I am now a vegetarian (even though I would eat meat if it came from a “normal” farm, or from hunting in the wild.) I have no problem with meat eaters, but I have a problem with these animals being enslaved in miserable conditions so that we can get our fill of ribs and hot wings! It really is ungodly.

    • ReaderRachel

      I’ve often thought about fulfilling the measure of creation in terms of quality of life for animals, like letting chickens scratch around and be chickens. Of course, much of what is natural behavior for animals is wasteful and cruel by human standards of morality. Think about the fact that of the 10 ducklings my neighborhood duck couple had, only 1 or 2 are likely to survive. Or the way a cat plays with its prey. But I hear you on being a vegetarian. My daughter is vegetarian, again, and I rarely eat meat (and as a result, the guys in our house don’t eat much meat at home either). We’ve considered buying half a cow or pig from local producers, but we don’t eat enough meat to justify it.