The Importance of Stewardship
It’s not only the cry of the poor we must listen to but also the cry of the earth. The earth and human beings are both threatened. We must do something to change the situation… ~Leonardo Boff
Today is Blog Action Day for 2009 and the topic of focus is “climate change.” I’ve debated about joining in this year because climate change isn’t one of those topics at the top of my list to write about. There is a lot of heat behind a subject that at its very nature right now is quite subjective. But I decided I’d go ahead and join in the discussion to hone in on one specific and important aspect of it: stewardship. I’ll get to that in a minute though.
I should start however by talking about a few key things that should temper the “global warming” debate (at least as far as I’m concerned). For one, I think it worthwhile to note that its not exact science (or better put, centered around theories); there are many respectable scientists on each side of the issue and we should be willing to hear them all out. Currently, I’d say that the politicians tug our heartstrings a little too much (it can be hard taking Al Gore seriously when you match his Inconvenient Truth versus his lifestyle, which as the linked article notes, has thankfully changed, at least in part). Technically, the side I generally fall on is that of the “global warming” skeptics. BBC News recently published an article that fairly accurately sums my thoughts. In it, temperatures are shown to have not really changed much at all over the past 11 years. Further, it posits that the earth naturally goes through cycles of warming and cooling; historical data seems to back this pretty well. This is the side of the fence I’ve stood on for quite some time.
Now to get back to what this post is about. Practically speaking, even though I’m skeptical of global warming as hard science, I’m generally on the side of those seeking reform, not because I think it will necessarily change things but as a stewardship perspective, it’s generally the right thing to do. It’s frustrating walking outside in a big city and immediately choking due to the brown and grey haze that has descended upon it. Or finding oneself burned from the sun, in part due to an ever disappearing ozone layer. Or finding out that a different species has forever died each day due, at least in part, to our everyday choices.
For many, the choice to ignore what I might consider responsible stewardship is their perspective on God and the ages to come. A generalized belief that I’ve often heard repeated is that we were given dominion over the earth to use it (up) as we see fit, regardless of consequences. This theology saddens me as I see it take root in the lives of people. The fruit that it produces tends to be a neglect of the world around us (it doesn’t matter if we destroy all of these forests; we want the wood) and the people that live in it (there might be people that depend on that land for their very livelihood but it’s more fitting for my factory). And at this point it does become a justice issue.
So what might a theology that stands against this look like? For one I think it should be rooted in a desire for dominion with a heart bent on stewardship and not domination. Genesis 1:28 does say to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the land but with the context 2:15, where man is charged with the earth’s care and maintenance. Leviticus 25 is another place we see God demanding stewardship of the earth rather than its domination (these are the versus of the Sabbath and Jubilee years). You can find within the pages of the prophets condemnation for abusing the earth as well.
Another aspect of our theology that needs a healthy dose of consideration is our eschatology (the study of the end times). The Lord’s prayer is a good place to start. Near its beginning, Jesus compels us to pray, “Your kingdom come! Your will be done! On earth as it is in heaven.” We, as followers of Jesus and as we move through out our lives, seek to see the space we move in transformed into something more akin to the kingdom of heaven. Part of the reason for that is that ultimately, where we walk today will one day actually be the kingdom. Jesus is returning to earth, not to take us away, but to physically reign here! If we ignore stewardship choosing domination instead, we ignore the aspect of the coming kingdom that says all of creation is reconciled through Jesus (Colossians 1:20) and therefore matters to our God above.
This note isn’t designed to be comprehensive but merely a catalyst to get you thinking about our responsibility in caring for the world around us. I began it with the quote from Leonardo Boff, an astute theologian of liberation theology and it’s tie to ecology, because I think stewardship matters to God, specifically as Boff puts. When we fail to steward responsibly, missing the cry of the earth we live on, we often miss the cry of those around us in the process.