The summer before my senior year of college, I traveled from New Hampshire to Oklahoma for an internship. The weather in Oklahoma took time to get used to. From the heat to the red dirt on the sides of the road, to hearing the sound of tornado sirens at noon every Saturday, it was a wild transition from the weather of New England. I found out that flash floods actually exist—and that they’re pretty scary! The intensity and beauty of God’s creation stood out in a new way.
God’s people have long recognized the beauty of creation and the environment with an outpouring of psalms, quotes, hymns, and sermons showing how nature reflects God. The psalmist David declared, “The skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Saint Hildegard of Bingen in the 1100s viewed the world around us as a portrait of who God is, saying, “Every creature is a glittering, glistening mirror of Divinity.” One of my favorite songs, “All Creatures” by Kings Kaleidoscope, is based on a 13th century poem by Saint Francis of Assisi called “Canticle of the Sun” and its English translation by William Henry Draper. As lead vocalist Chad Gardner sings:
Let all things their Creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
Oh praise Him! Oh praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Isn’t God’s creation such a beautiful gift to be a part of? It is our one and only home on this side of heaven. And not only do we have the opportunity to experience it, but God has a special position for us in it. God has made us stewards.
Wait, what? You might be thinking, What does it mean to be stewards of nature?
Caring for God’s Creation
Being a steward simply means being in charge of someone else’s belongings. In the biblical sense, it means being responsible with what God gives you in your life, such as finances, possessions, your family, and nature. In fact, our responsibility to care for God’s creation is one of the original tasks given to us by God, as described in Genesis.
You might know parts of the creation story. The author of Genesis beautifully describes how God made the world in six days, followed by a day of rest. On the sixth day, we see God’s plan for humans:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 NIV
In the next chapter, we see more of this calling:
The Lᴏʀᴅ God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.Genesis 2:15 NIV
As humans created in the image of God, we’re tasked with caring for the Earth, ruling over it the same way God rules. But what does that mean? What does a good steward look like in God’s eyes? There’s a parable in the Gospel of Luke dealing with this issue:
The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. …” Luke 12:42-46 NIV
There is so much goodness in this parable, but there are a couple things we should focus on if we want to be good stewards of the Earth. The good steward (or manager) is the one who follows what the master wants. He gives food to the other servants at the proper time. He doesn’t mess around when the master is away. He doesn’t wait to do his job; he does it at the appropriate time.
This is in contrast to the bad steward, who thinks that because his master isn’t coming immediately, he can do whatever he wants. He treats the servants poorly, and takes the provisions of the master to fill his own stomach and get drunk.
Jesus then ends with an important declaration: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48 NIV). When God gives us something to steward, we have a responsibility for it. And the more we’re given, the more responsibility we have.
You Can Make a Difference
To be asked by God to care for the Earth is a huge responsibility. What does that mean in our lives? It could mean discussing the effects of our actions on the Earth with our children, or living a more sustainable lifestyle, trading plastic for paper, carpooling, or doing a recycling drive in your community. It could mean discovering ways to use energy and agriculture more sustainably, or learning more about how to best steward our earthly home for generations to come.
Our responsibility as Christians is to honor God and follow Him in all areas of our lives. He has put us in charge of God’s creation, to care and look after it. How is God calling you to take part in this work?