In the beginning the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Then the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters and there was life. From the brooding, inky mass of nothingness came life and it was good. Then God said, “Let Us make man,” and the life had a king.
The duty of a king is stewardship and even though Adam fell, the duty of man’s stewardship has not changed. Man is duty bound by the very fact of his creation to rule the earth in wisdom and justice. Man must subdue the earth.
But were the mandate of God given just to man alone, our duty would be, like man’s, dimmed by the vital presence of sin. But we are not man, we are CHRISTIAN man and our duty should be much more clearly seen and much more vitally important. It is as though all mankind were myopic, but Christian man was given glasses. In our intimate contact with God, we are duty bound to see His will more clearly than the world. More than man, Christian man must obey the mandate to subdue the earth and must exercise his stewardship.
The earth was created in a verdant splendor which man cannot imagine today. The great beauties of the world today are but dim reflections of the wonder and grandeur with which the earth praised the Lord in the dawn of time. The veil of sin has been dropped over the natural world with the same power as it has been dropped over the heart of man. Yet God is speaking through this natural world, too. The man who cannot see God in the velvet of a flower’s petal or hear His voice in the breath of the wind is truly a dead man. God is speaking through the voice of the universe and it is our duty as much today as in Eden to exercise stewardship over the vehicle of this voice.
The earth around us is speedily becoming a vision of hell rather than a picture of God. Our streams and rivers are open sewers, our lakes are dying, plant and animal life is rapidly being destroyed. Many species of birds are extinct, or on the verge of extinction. To make our life better and easier, we have carelessly used pesticides, foolishly allowed our waste products to glut rivers and streams. Because we are lazy, our roadsides are full of paper, cans and other debris. We erect buildings and carelessly dump barrels and other trash in the nearest convenient spot. We fill up marshes—that are refuges for some of the most beautiful creatures on earth—as excuses for landfill projects. (Which is a delicate way of saying that we are too cheap to buy smokeless incinerators for our garbage.)
The creation over which God has placed us stewards is an extremely delicate mechanism—more delicate than even modern science-oriented man realizes today. Any careless tampering with the ecological balance of nature can and often does have serious consequences. Wisdom must be exercised even in the control of disease-bearing organisms, lest the destruction caused by the elimination of the organism be greater than the disease itself.
The day is soon coming when the sound of a bird’s song will be a forgotten memory to our children. The sight of a flock of ducks majestically circling over a clear lake on a crisp fall morning is fast becoming a rare sight. How often do we hear the slap of a beaver’s tail on a quiet pond, the call of the Canada goose heading homeward? Many of our children know the sight of our once most common animals only be viewing them in the slums people call zoos. There is nothing more pathetic than the sight of a great bald eagle (one of God’s creatures, remember) sitting (not perched, for there is seldom anything to perch on) in a tiny cage in a reeking zoo. Even if all the bald eagles in the world today were to be put together and if all would breed without dangers of death among their offspring, they could not keep themselves from extinction. Never again will the shadow of this magnificent bird darken the sun.
Man was created to use the earth for the glory of God. He was sent to subdue the earth, not destroy it. Truly, it is the judgment of God upon the wicked earth that the earth is becoming a functioning dump, yet this does not free us from our duties of stewardship. Simply to say that God will preserve His Church even in a polluted world is the sinners’ way out of a difficult task. We are not doing the Maker of all that is beautiful and great any honor by sitting back in judgment alone. The world is even recognizing the dangers they have made around themselves. Conservation and anti-pollution groups are constantly crying out their warnings of destruction. This is the way wicked man works, but what of the Christian?
The first step a Christian ought to take after he has come to an awareness of the problems he is creating is to stop polluting. Don’t throw trash out your car windows; don’t dump wastes into creeks and rivers. Use with wisdom the chemical and mechanical devices the Lord has given man. Remember, you are stewards for the Church of tomorrow, too.
But this stewardship extends even farther. The environment in which we live is an immensely complex unit. To judiciously use all the Lord has given us while still maintaining our rightful position as stewards demands knowledge of the world in which we live. Saying that it is too complex or too sinful and not fit for study is no excuse for ignorance. Even if the world should end today, we would be judged on our stewardship.
Finally, our voices should not remain silent when man continues to destroy the creation. As stewards, it is our duty to use all in our power to preserve the creation God has given us. This we should do, not to “Make the world a better place to live in,” but to honor and glorify the Creator.
We have been placed on this earth for one purpose: To glorify Him Who made us. To sit silently by as the earth He has given us becomes a picture of death rather than a reflection of the beauty that is to come is sin.
May the sight of a flock of birds winging in silent splendor into the sunset always be near us to remind us of the presence of the Creator.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 5 August 1969