Stewards of the Earth

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26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 

            27 So God created man in his own image, 

in the image of God he created him; 

male and female he created them. 

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue 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.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

As a child, I always dreamt that I could grow up faster so that I could be the master of our own family. As human beings, we would like to have our own say at home and at workplace.

In the Old Testament, God gave the authority of governing the world to Adam and Eve. If you like, our ancestors had become the stewards of the earth. 

1) Divine Appointment (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15)

The Meaning of Dominion over

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  (Genesis 1:26 ESV) The expression “dominion over” appears twice in verse 26 and 28. It has the meaning of “rule over” (NET and NIV 2011). As you can see, Adam and Eve had been granted the divine office of ruling the world.

Historical Tyrant

There are many historical tyrants in the past. Can you name a few? I can name one tyrant by the name of Pol Pot (19 May 1925–15 April 1998). He was the dictator of Cambodia. Under his leadership, his government forced urban residents to relocate to the countryside, working in collective farms and forced labour projects. Within a period of four years, he executed a lot of his own people. Also, due to forced labour, undernourishment, and poor medical care, 25 percent of the Cambodian population died. Imagine Cambodia was a country of slightly over 8 million of people, according to estimation, 1 to 3 million people deceased. 

Not as Tyrants

Although God appointed Adam and Eve as stewards, He didn’t want them to be tyrants. In granting human beings the stewardship, He granted them the authority to govern the earth.

The Meaning of “Subdue”

 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue 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.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV) The author used the word “subdue” (ESV, NET, HCBC, NIV), it has the idea of dominion over the earth.

A Foreman’s Authority

Lining up his crew, a tough construction foreman told his crew that he could defeat any man in his gang. A husky young man stepped forward, telling his boss that he could not be beaten.  His boss replied in saying, “Guess you’re right—you’re fired.”

The Authority of Subduing the Earth

As foremen or supervisors, they are given the authority to do their jobs. Similarly, as God’s stewards, Adam and Eve were given the authority to subdue or conquer the earth.

The Key Points of God’s Appointment

God is the Lord of all created things, and He appointed Adam and Eve to govern the earth. The key points of His appointment are as follows:

Manage for God

On behalf of their owners, stewards manage the properties of their owners.  Likewise, God appointed Adam and Eve to be His stewards or managers on earth (Genesis 2:15). 

Under God’s Supervision

Although God is the Lord of the universe, He appointed human beings as His stewards. One thing is that, the concept of stewardship and supervision are interconnected. In the Bible, God is seen as the Lord of all things, and He is also the supervisor of His stewards. In a nutshell, God would not forsake to participate the governing of the earth, He would still supervise the work of His stewards. If you like, Adam and Eve’s ruling over the world is under God’s close supervision.

Deism

Deism is a theological belief. In a short sentence, the deists believe after the creation of the universe, God has no more involvement with the world and events within it. If you read the Bible, you would easily find out this belief is not biblically sound.

God’s Participation

Although God transcends everything, He could still understand and participate in daily affairs on earth. Even though the Lord of all creation appointed people to be His stewards, He would still personally supervise their stewardship. Dear friends, you might feel the world is very chaotic, but don’t worry, the Lord is still working in our midst.

God-centered Stewardship

As stewards of the earth, we cannot do everything according to our liking because God is the Lord of all created beings. Stewardship should be God-centered. In our workplace, we might want to please our boss, but we should seek to please God instead. If we come to revisit this concept from time to time, that is to say, what matters most is that we should please God in our vocation, thus our work would be God-centered.

2) Stewardship on earth (Genesis 2:15)

The Meaning of “Work”

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  The verb “to work” has the following meanings: “to serve, cultivate, enslave, work.” In Genesis 2:15, it is used to describe the tilling of a field.

The Meaning of “Keep”

 The verb “to keep” means “take care of” or “guard”. The concept of “dominion over” and subdue is not about dominion and exploitation (Genesis 1:26, 28), but to work and take care of the earth (Genesis 2:15). Having understood the meaning of these words, the stewards of the earth should bear three things in mind.     

Try Our Best to Protect the Earth

The earth and its resources belong to God (Lev. 25:23; Job 41:11; Pss. 24:1; 89:11) and yet He entrusted all these things to people (Gen. 1:28–30; 2:15; 9:1–4; cp. Deut. 8:7–10). For this reason, individuals have a sacred responsibility to protect the earth (cp. Luke 12:41–48). First of all, we must try our best to protect the earth.

Follow the Rules of Protecting the Earth

As stewards, the Israelites are informed about the rules of using God’s given land. For example, the land was to lay uncultivated every seven years (Exod. 23:10–11; Lev. 25:3–7) and that fruit was not to be picked from trees under four years of age (Lev. 19:23–25). As stewards, we must follow the rules of protecting the earth.

Going against These Principles

In the Old Testament, God has given His people the principles to protect the earth. On the contrary, we have observed that many lawless businessmen have violated these rules.  

Illegal Merchants

Palm oil is a common component to produce biofuels, cosmetics and food. The instant noodles and cookies that we like so much, have the component of palm oil. According to conservative estimation, palm oil exports bring Indonesia and neighbouring Malaysia $40 billion a year. In Indonesia, for the sake of planting palm trees, some lawless merchants chopped down rain forests and burned down uncountable number of trees. In the process of burning trees, it releases a lot of carbon dioxide – the culprit of global warming. Moreover, the conversion of forests into palm oil plantations destroys the home of orangutans, the Sumatran tigers and the Sumatran rhinos. Also, in 2015, human-caused wildfires in Indonesia’s tropical forests might have caused more than 100,000 premature deaths. The amount of CO2 emitted there was more than the CO2 released in UK that year.

Greenhouse Gases

The production of greenhouse gases would cause global warming. Due to the increase of seawater temperature, a large number of coral reefs died. As coral reefs are the homes of some unique fishes, turtles and algae, these precious species could be lost forever because of the death of coral reefs. Due to the massive decrease of fishes in these water districts, the livelihood of many fishermen would be affected. Moreover, global warming would have grave consequences, such as flooding, famines and water shortages. As more than 3 billion people worldwide are living in poverty, the shortages of water and food would cause serious conflicts in the future. And because of that, a large number of refugees would leave their homelands for other countries. Dear friends, we are the stewards of the earth, we must do whatever we can to protect it. 

All Created Beings Are Interconnected

The Bible states that “all living things” belong to a group (Gen. 1:21; 6:19; Acts 17:24). It shows that the interdependence of all life. By using today’s jargon, all human beings, living creatures and plants belong to the same global ecosystem. Daily needs of human beings depend on the provision of water, sunlight and air supply.

Shark’s Fin Soup

Around the world, Chinese are known to have shark’s fin soup at their joyous celebrations. Before Westerners openly reported and opposed this kind of dish, shark’s fin soup is almost a designated dish at Chinese wedding and festive occasions. Someone might have asked, “Since sharks are violent creatures, why didn’t we get rid of them?” First of all, sharks are not that bloodthirsty. According to the statistics, sharks killed around one human per year, but on the contrary, human beings slaughtered 100 million sharks annually. If sharks were extinct, the growth of algae might get out of control, and scallops could be extinct, because there were no sharks to eat the predators of scallops. As you can see, sharks play a vital role in the ocean’s food chain.

Our Reflection

Friends and believers, we all belong to the same global village and our existence are interconnected with other created beings.

3) Workplace Stewardship

The Nature of Work Is Good

God saw everything that He created was good (Genesis 1:31), so was the work that He assigned human beings. When human beings sinned, God did not curse work, but He cursed the earth and people had to work hard for a living (Genesis 3:17 to 19).

Work Is Hard

Before the Fall of humankind, work to them was a good thing, but after our ancestors chose to revolt against God, the work for human beings have become hard.

Work Is Boring

For the sake of earning a living to support their families, some people have to take up really boring jobs.  A boring person has come up with the apparent 40 most boring jobs in the world. The first one is the worker who tests the temperature of frozen peas on a production line on a daily basis. Imagine the only thing that you do for eight hours every day is to get the temperature of frozen peas on a production line. It can be a yawning job!

Our Own Garden

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve followed God’s instructions to take care of the Garden of Eden. As our ancestors sinned against God, they had to work hard for their own survival. In short, regardless of Christians or non-Christians, we all have to take care of our own garden, that is our own workplace.

Our Unique Vocation

As all of us have our unique background and experience, we must stay true to our own circumstance and the initial calling from God, and that is why the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian believers with these words,  “Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you.”(1Co :17, 22). In other words, everyone has their own calling from God, and taking up their own vocation consequently. For example, due to our unique circumstances and God’s leading, some people chose to be doctors, some are led to be housewives, and some Christians believed that God called them to be missionaries and pastors.

Spiritual or Secular

There are many fallacies in the Christian circles and one of these myths is the misconception of spiritual and secular work. For example, many Christians regard the work of the missionaries and pastors as spiritual, and the work of other believers secular. In short, they think the jobs of other Christians have no eternal value. Due to our unique background and circumstances, God would lead Christians to make their own decisions of taking up different vocations, if we responded to His leading obediently,  we would be regarded as doing His will.

4) The Goals of Stewards

To Glorify God

As everything belongs to God, the mission of stewards is to glorify God through our stewardship. Since Jesus Christ is the Lord of all things, Christians are responsible to manage their entrusted resources and testify to others that these resources belong to God, and encourage others to participate the conservation of the environment. Dear believers, if it is possible, let others know that we are Christians in our workplace, and let us glorify God by means of excellent performance.

To Live out the Holistic Gospel

The Gospel is closely associated with the stewardship of the environment as well (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:19–20; Psalm 8:6). Christians should preach the Gospel to non-believers, but this is not the only mission that we should have in life. As stewards of the earth, Christians are also responsible to protect the nature and to avert potential environmental disasters.

Changing Your Daily Habits

How much time do you spend in taking a shower? I know somebody who needs to shower twice a day, and every time, they would take almost 30 minutes in taking a shower. If you cut down one minute in taking a shower, you would save quite a lot of water down the road. Most Canadians are blessed to have central heating and cooling system at home. What temperature have you set your thermostat? If you lowered it by one degree in the winter, and raise it to one degree in the summertime, you would conserve a great deal of energy in the long run. In a nutshell, we must change our daily habits in order to conserve the environment.

Changing Your Eating Habits

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases and it warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide. Cows produce a lot of methane gas, much more than sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. As you can see, cows are one of the many culprits of pollution. Can you reduce in eating beef? Do you mind to cut down in eating beef burgers? Churches enjoy to have potluck dinners. Around the world, let alone churches send many styrofoam cups, plastic forks and spoons to the landfills. As God’s stewards, would we reduce in using these products?

Changing Our Driving Habits

In North America, we have to drive all the time. For the sake of conservation, except in traffic, can we turn off our engines if we stopped for more than a minute? Would we consider to use a smaller car? Changing our bad driving habits would be a great help to the environment.

To Be Faithful Stewards

The principle of stewardship is closely connected to the concept of grace. Since everything comes from God as a gift, we must manage these resources faithfully on His behalf. God has granted us natural resources, and He has also given us spiritual gifts, talents, life and money. We must exercise our stewardship faithfully. We are all trustees, and we are accountable to our Master. Lord Jesus often spoke of stewardship in His parables (Matthew 25:22-23). It is a matter of sooner or later, we would meet with our lord in the future. We must present our past deeds on earth to Him. In other words, we would have to present our stewardship that we have done on earth to Him. Let’s determine to be a good steward!

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