Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: The writer reminds us that followers of Jesus are persons who accept His Creatorship, are faithful in their Christian stewardship that includes proper care and use of the earth’s resources, while waiting for Him to come again to reign forever and to make everything new.
Growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist on the Islands of the South Pacific, I heard very little said about Christian responsibility of the environment. On the other hand, we constantly heard sermons and discussions about eschatological events associated with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the millennium, and also of the larger picture of the future ultimate destruction of this world with God making all things new including a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21). I am not suggesting that as a church community we do not believe in personal responsibility for the earth that we live in, but I am saying that our strong emphasis on the Advent of Jesus may have given some people the wrong impression that we only care about going to heaven and have no concern for the environment today. Actually as Adventists, we believe and teach stewardship of the earth, and we can do more.
“We are God’s stewards, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resources. We are responsible to Him for their proper use” (Seventh-day Adventist Believe, 2005: 301,307). In this article, I submit to our readers that Christian stewards are both creationists (believe that Jesus as Creator made all things) and Adventists (believe that Jesus will come back to this earth as King of the Universe).
The biblical record begins with the assertion that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1 (NIV). This statement of fact makes two very important theological points. First, before anything was made, God was. Second, the universe (the heavens and earth) as we know it is a product of God’s creation. Moreover, Adam and Eve (the first humans) were placed by God in the Garden of Eden as partners to extend His “rule” over His creation through their stewardship of the earth (Genesis 1:28; 2:8,15). Thus, from the very beginning of time, humans were given the special task of being stewards of the world not because they own it but because they accepted God as their Maker and Owner of all things.
Creator and owner of the universe
As a reminder of His sovereignty and ownership of the universe, God in His work of creation set time (the seventh day) aside (made holy) so that Adam, Eve and their descendants would recognize Him as their Creator. For the first humans Sabbath keeping was an act of faith in the God who had power to create and in His “completed” work of creation (Genesis 2:1-2). They did not need to do or add anything more to what God had made which was “good.” The Sabbath was God’s invitation for humans to come into His presence to rest and find communion in Him and with Him. Worship, in this context, was both a voluntary and spiritual response to everything that God was and is. Sabbath observance for Adam and Eve was to be an on-going love experience between them and the Creator just like their duty to care for earth.
In response to the question posed by the disciples about the end time and the sign of His coming, Jesus used parables to communicate truths about this subject in Matthew 24 and 25. In the parable of the “talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) Jesus makes the point that persons waiting for the Advent must work and be good stewards of the financial resources given to them by the “Master” (God). Accountability to God as a stewardship infers that value and principle is not limited only to money but also to other areas of human life and experience including care of the environment. This emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability on the part of “Adventists” (individuals waiting for the coming of Jesus as King) is also highlighted in the parable of the “Judgment” (Matthew 25: 31-46). Jesus’ central point in both chapters is that our eschatology of the future must be informed by our theology and life experience of today.
In His last message for the world in Revelation 14, God makes another call for the inhabitants of the earth to honor and worship the Creator “who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water" (verse 7). This reference to the created works of God is not an incidental notation but a significant restatement of who God is. The worship of the Creator God includes the proper care and management of the world that He made. More importantly, this eternal message of God’s good news concludes with the depiction of the return of Jesus as King and coming for the harvest—a time of reckoning and rewards (Revelation 14:14). Our final standing with God at the end time rests on our willingness to acknowledge Him as our Creator, and obedience to His will as revealed in Jesus.
So what do these Bible passages and examples say to us as Christian stewards? They remind us that followers of Jesus are persons who accept His Creatorship, are faithful in their Christian stewardship that includes proper care and use of the earth’s resources, while waiting for Him to come again to reign forever and to make everything new. These individuals live in expectation of the Advent and recognize their God-given responsibility in the present to society and the world they live in. Their hope is for a “new” earth in the future where the lion and the lamb will roam together and where its citizens live and abide by the Laws of the Creator. And, this is not in conflict with their present lifestyle of being good and responsible stewards of God’s rule in the world today.