Louis Armstrong’s classic song, “What a Wonderful World” (I can recognize it from the very first notes), described my feelings while eating endless salad at our local Olive Garden. The restaurant was filled with people laughing, drinking and eating.
When the second big salad bowl laden with lettuce, black olives, onions, tomatoes and croutons arrived at our table I thought to myself, I wonder how much produce is consumed every day at this restaurant? Then I thought about all the pasta and other entrées being consumed that evening at the restaurant.
Munching my salad, savoring the light Italian dressing, I did a little mental calculation about all the food people consume every day throughout the world. (Over 7,630,480,000 mouths to feed every day.) I simply can’t wrap my mind around the veritable mountain of fruit, vegetables and meat our earth produces. Not just every day but every day since the beginning of human history.
Think of all the amazing varieties of good food from the oceans, streams, fields, vineyards, and orchards harvested and consumed daily on our blue-and-green planet, and yet…there is always more on the shelves the next day.
Yes, of course I am remembering the many across the world who are hungry and malnourished, perhaps lacking sufficient food to even sustain health. I suspect that this is more of a distribution problem than a supply problem. There is food aplenty, but for all the reasons we know so well—greed, war, poverty, geography, and weather—it sometimes doesn’t arrive in the hands and on the tables of those who need it most. Who could deny that we Americans waste so much; we could certainly do more to help close the gap between the well fed and the starving.
Even so, in spite of the sin, neglect, and abuse, earth produces mountains of food every single day. Should we be surprised by this abundance? Isn’t this the very thing God promised—yea, commanded—on the third day of creation?
“Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth. And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.” (Genesis 1:11-13, esv)
The text continues in verses 28-30: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue (manage) it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.'”
And it has been so every day since the beginning of the human race.
Homo sapiens have done a pretty good job “subduing” the earth. We have left our footprints and our litter everywhere including the summit of earth’s highest mountains and the Great Pacific Trash Vortex where an estimated 80,000 tons of plastic and other debris is littered across 1.6 million square kilometers of ocean. Obviously, we have not earned an “A” as managers. Through both ignorance and greed we have eliminated species that once graced our world—and will not return.
So I ask myself, why would God continue to command the earth to produce and produce the endless food supply day after day? Why would God continue to send the rain and sunshine to sustain the harvests?
First, I turn to the Great Flood in Genesis. After the deluge had destroyed all creatures on the land except those in the ark, God entered into a covenant with Noah. In spite of endemic human rebellion, God said “Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:21b-22, emphasis mine, esv). God also commanded Noah and his family to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” and gave every living creature and plant as food.
In Acts 14:16-17, the apostle Paul and Barnabas delivered the same message. After finally convincing the citizens of Lystra to cease and desist from worshipping them, Paul challenged the volatile crowd to turn from their idols and worship the one true living God—the Creator of all. Note Paul’s words: “In past generations he (God) allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
Theologians sometimes refer to this as “common” grace. But that doesn’t mean it’s ordinary! It is “common” because every person experiences it, no matter where they live, how they live, or whom they worship. The Creator has honored His promise to bless the ground and produce food for every living creature.
Today and every day the earth continues to produce food for us—even when we are ungrateful. That is grace!
So perhaps the next time you stroll through a supermarket or visit the local farmer’s market or order from the menu of a restaurant or grab a burger, why not stop to reflect? Think for just a moment about the sheer amount of food produced and consumed every day. Reflect on God who continues to send the rains and the harvests to keep the shelves stocked for people like you and me.
I can never duplicate Louis Armstrong’s unique, gravelly voice, but I too can celebrate and sing about the green trees and red roses. And I can think to myself, What a wonderful world!
For those of us who know the Creator, let us sing “What a wonderful God!” After all, this is our
Father’s World that provides us with such abundance.
Just because He is Who He is.A gracious Provider who keeps His promises.
Enjoy Louis Armstrong on the YouTube site below.