Benjamin C. Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries
Summary: If we accept the world as a divine trust, we must look for ways to make a difference in the practical issues of daily life—in the care of our environment. Elder Maxson lists some of these practical ways.
Where did we lose it?
The environmental community confronts us with a challenge. Will we survive the abuse we heap on our environment? Periodic reports on the ?greenhouse effect? or global warming warn of environmental change and potential catastrophe. While we understand the end of the world will come with the Second Coming of Jesus, as Christians, we are not exempt from this challenge or from responsibility for misuse of our world and its resources. In fact, Christians who emphasize Jesus’ Second Coming and a catastrophic end to the world are often accused of being indifferent to the environment.
The perceived attitude is one of disinterest in the long-term survival of the environment since it will all be destroyed at the Second Coming. This all makes me wonder where we lost our God-given sense of responsibility. After all, this world does belong to God, and we are stewards of the resources He has placed in our hands.
In the beginning
If we are to seriously accept the care for God’s world, we must return to where it all began—creation.
During the six days of creation, God spoke this world and all its resources into existence. The world is His by right of creation. He claims it as His own: ?The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it? (Ps 24:1).
On the sixth day of creation, God created Adam and Eve and gave them the responsibility of ?ruling? over this world and all in it (Gn 1:28-30). This ?dominion? was presented in the context of their being created in God’s image. Thus our management of natural resources is an extension of the initial responsibility given to humanity at creation—an extension of God’s management. As a result, we must administer this trust in the spirit and attitude of the Creator.
Challenging a sacred responsibility
However, there are a number of factors which challenge our fulfillment of this sacred responsibility:
1. Selfishness. We must face the reality of our natural sinful tendencies. We tend to think about our needs and wants regardless of others, or the impact on the environment.
2. Indifference. Too often we simply don’t care. We see natural resources as limitless and don’t stop to think about our impact on the world around us.
3. Ignorance. We do little to educate Christians as faithful stewards, and even when we address the subject of stewardship, little is said about care for the world and our environment.
4. Ownership. We forget that God is the real Owner of this world and think it is ours to do with as we wish. So, what can we do?
It all starts with basic Lordship. We must accept this world as a divine trust. Weakened as it may be by six thousand years of sin, the environment is the context in which our stewardship takes place. Ignoring care for the environment is a rejection of the initial responsibility given to Adam and Eve. This is a sacred trust.
Accepting this trust, we must look for ways to make a difference in the practical issues of daily life. There are world environmental issues, but few of us have much impact at that level. However, we can make an impact on the portion of the environment which God has placed in our hands—our areas of direct responsibility.
? We can extend our worship of God into our management of all our resources, including the world in which we live.
? We can help our church members understand this sacred trust. This should include sermons on the world belonging to God and our role as stewards of His creation.
? We can move from a wasteful or careless attitude to one of careful choices. This includes our decisions about the use of resources in our homes.
?This is our Father’s world . . .? the hymn says, but what do our lives say? How long can we continue to ignore the sacred responsibility