In my last post, I had reflected on the well known verses of the Twenty-third Psalm in regards to God’s promise for providing for our daily needs. The first verse of the following Twenty-fourth psalm gives another reason that Christians should be caretakers of the environment.
“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.” (NIV)
Here we read that the earth is not owned by us, but by God. Everything whether mineral, plant, or animal is under the Creator’s possession. This truth was understood in Jewish culture. There are several laws and narratives in the Old Testament that advise for responsible use of land and resources (For example, Exodus 23:10-12 and Leviticus 25:1-7 on granting the land to rest every seven years). Jesus recognized the authority of God over all living things throughout his parables and often sought communion with the Father in the calmness of creation (I intend to explore these accounts in later posts).
In the beginning, the world was entrusted by God as a gift and blessing to us. It is true that in Genesis 1:26 God said for humans to have dominion over the earth. Since we are made in the image of God, our dominion should model from the intent of the Creator. Yet many humans have taken this phrase to mean complete control on all resources and ecosystems to exploit for our own endeavors. Our cultural motivations are more often focused on maximizing profit or conveniences rather than honoring God and the gift of creation.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word stewardship is the act of “careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care”. Stewardship of the environment is more like management than free reign because of already established interactions that support all life on this earth. God designed the earth to consist of these ecosystems and any step hindered in the process can affect others down the line. So the concept of Eco-stewardship includes the management of these life-sustaining systems as God intended and understanding how they impact the lives around us.
We as Christians must recognize to not carelessly take from what has been given into our care, but rather we must be care-takers of what has been given. J. Matthew Sleeth wrote in the book Serve God, Save the Planet, that the essence of stewardship for Christians is “to take a gift, nurture it, and give it away someday” in the same or better state. We are only on this planet for a finite time and then our dominion is left to our neighbors and the generations after us. How do you believe your management of earth's resources has looked through the eyes of God? What could you do now to improve your stewardship of the earth for God and your neighbors?