You trample on the poor
and force them to give you grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
Water, symbol of our relationship with God
Water is symbolic of our relationship with God, carrying the image of renewal, promise and hope. It is through water that we are baptized into the community of the church. Furthermore, water is essential to all life on Earth, and it links human life to the rest of God’s creation. Creation begins with God calling life out of the water (Genesis 1:2). The human body itself is made up mainly of water. We can go for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. It is through water that all of creation is gifted with life, and life in all of its various forms is not possible without water.
But, if water is symbolic of our relationship with God, what does it say about us? Throughout the world 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water (WHO/UNICEF). The United Nations have warned that by the year 2025, if present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress. Even in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 218 million people live within 10 miles of a polluted lake.
Water is first and foremost a gift from God – provided so that we and all of creation may have life. As people of faith we understand our responsibilities as to protect the sacred gifts given by God, and to heal a world torn by brokenness and human strife. Too often we in the United States don’t see our actions in connection with the wider world. We build stone mansions and have lush vineyards while often turning a blind eye to the trampling of the poor that goes on to provide these things.
The water crisis is one example of this. Developed countries, including the United States, use the vast majority of the water in the world, especially when it comes to waste disposal and industry (unesco.org). While we are using water for business those living in deepest poverty are going entirely without – and often our businesses are taking their water. In India Coca-Cola has drawn criticism for mining water which they have the rights to and parching the land where more than 2000 people live (stwr.org). In Africa more than 58 percent of the population lacks access to water resources.
We are called to live in right relationship with the rest of the world and with creation, and our lives should reflect that. We need to be careful that our vineyards aren’t watered with the water of those living in poverty around the world. The wine of the body of Christ is meant to be enjoyed by all.
Jordan Blevins is the Assistant Director of the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches, USA, where he coordinates their work on public lands, water, biodiversity, and environmental justice. He also serves on the Young Adult Task Force of the US Conference of the World Council of Churches.
Together We Can Make A Difference:
• Plan a world water day worship service. This year it is on a Sunday – and the perfect opportunity to involve your faith community in work on the global water crisis. Click here for a resource from the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches, USA, or here for resources compiled by the Ecumenical Water Network.
• Get involved in water projects around the world. Check out the work of Church World Service or other EWN participants – maybe get your faith community to sponsor a specific project.
• Get in touch with your local government and companies – and advocate for fair water practices. Click here for stories of hope from around the world.