An image of a close-up of water droplets on green grass.

"In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."1 So begins J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic tale The Hobbit.

Last week, I thought I caught a glimpse of one of those Hobbit-holes, a place Bilbo Baggins himself might fancy living in. But the home, it turns out, belongs to a woman who lives in New Mexico. Featured on a television show about extreme homes, this one is called an earthship because it is designed to function off the grid, with no need to connect to electricity, gas, or water. Though the shape of the house is organic and rather bizarre, with questionable resale value, the idea of owning a self-sustaining home with zero utility bills is appealing.

Constructed primarily of found materials, its heavy walls are made of steel-belted automobile tires crammed with dirt and then staggered and stacked like bricks.  Since scrap tires are everywhere, it’s a cheap and sustainable resource.

Need water for drinking, showering, laundering? The house harvests it from rain, condensation, and snow. Then it recycles it in order to flush toilets and water plants. Need heat or cooling? The interior climate is comfortably maintained by taking advantage of large front windows with shades and by drawing on heat that’s absorbed in the load-bearing walls. Constructing the walls with rammed earth tires means the house is also more fire resistant. Need to power up your cell phone or computer? Electricity is provided through photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.

Pretty neat if you can satisfy the local building codes and don’t mind having the most unusual home on the block. But as sustainable as such houses are, they don’t come close to painting a picture of our self-sustaining God, the only being in the universe who needs nothing but himself to continue to exist.

To survive on this planet, the rest of us depend on everything God gives—the rain, wind, sun, and earth. What would we do without trees or plants or animals or people, all of which have their source in God’s creative work? If God were to withdraw himself from creation for even a moment, it would simply collapse and every living thing would cease to be. But thanks be to God because he lovingly upholds the world he has made. Today let’s praise him, not only for making us but for blessing us each day with what we need.

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (New York: Random House, 1937, 1966, 1994, 1996), 1.




Originally published September 20, 2018.