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Stewardship: God – Man – Earth *

Why are people so afraid about the end of the world? Well, it’s a matter of belief.

If we believe that our actions are the only determiner of the end (or saving) of the world, we will be crushed by the fearful responsibility. If we understand that the God who created the world also is in charge of its future, however, a whole different perspective resides in our minds and hearts.

When we take the teachings of the Bible seriously, we arrive at this worldview about the relationship of God, Man, and the Earth:

Stewardship Dominion 1

God is Creator and ruling King over all; mankind, made in His image, is created in a symbiotic relationship with earth, and given the charge to rule and cultivate it.

On the other hand, if we take a God-denying posture and believe that the physical universe is all there is, and that we somehow showed up as an evolved being with no special identity or place, then we’ll typically end up where many extreme-environmentalists go:

Stewardship Dominion 2

In this perspective, man is subordinate to the earth and the universe, and any stewardship is based on the idea of preserving the environment for future generations (surely not a bad motive, though incomplete).

This latter worldview is a pretty fearful place to live, actually. If you think it through, we, as a race, ultimately have no purpose (though our hearts tell us otherwise). As individuals, we are temporary specks without meaning or eternal identity (though our hearts tell us otherwise). And we’re told that we’re supposed to be subordinate to an environmental system and not disturb it (though our hearts, our behaviors, and our history show otherwise).

And, we are susceptible to all sorts of apocalyptic doomsday pronouncements about climate change, overpopulation, fossil fuels, and the like – because the earth is all we have and we’re screwing it up. We will be biased toward fear-doom because we do not see and embrace the God who over-rules all things. The God who understood perfectly well the man-earth dynamic when He created them together.

What we believe totally shapes our attitudes and our actions. God-denial leaves us empty and fearful, trying to rationalize a worldview that militates against our God-given instinct and conscience. A right posture of worship and obedience, however, grants us confidence tempered with realism – God is ultimately in charge, but we have a charge from Him to fulfill. And He is a profoundly generous, benevolent, and abundant King – an involved Ruler – which is the theme we’ll explore next week.

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* This brief devotional is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re on week 2, discussing the relationship of man to his planet. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box up there on the right sidebar >

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Is Man an Intruder on the Earth?

Stewardship: God – Man – Earth *

We have been teaching that God created man and the earth together, as a symbiotic system, with man as God’s steward to rule the earth.

We are to manage, cultivate, and care for the entire planet and its inhabitants. This is clearly biblical; but it leaves us with a conundrum.

Why is everything so profoundly screwed up down here??

For the person who believes in naturalistic evolution (man and life and all that surrounds us is a product of non-supernaturally-directed forces), the answer cannot be something along the lines of a Fall into sin. But, in fact, for a race that evolved into intelligence and self-awareness, it sure seems odd that we are imposing a destructive dominion over the rest of planet. If you listen to those in the radical environmentalist camp, it’s almost as if humankind is an intruder, a disruptor, an out-of-bounds rebel against the natural order.

You know – kinda like a sinner.

The fact is, our stewardship over the earth is corrupted, because we are corrupt. Our sin is against God, not “mother earth,” but the effects are no different – we mess up our home environment, this planet, big time.

In the book of Romans (chapter 8), the apostle Paul uses the following stark imagery to describe the reality of our broken relationship with all of creation:

The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Not only have we broken our relationship with God by disobedience, thereby suffering ongoing corruption throughout our race, but we have subjected the entire earth to our corruption.

In other words, it’s a mess down here. There is alienation – we act like intruders, but it is because of sin. Sin against God is what leads to abuse of His creation.

We didn’t evolve into intelligent jerks. We devolved into intelligent jerks.

However, that’s not the end of the story. Those who are restored to a right relationship with God, through Christ, are to take up the mantle of their stewardship once again and faithfully exercise dominion even in a fallen environment. We do so recognizing that we groan, and the entire planet groans, until such time as God brings forth the full redemption and renewal of His creation.

Many people want to pick and choose what parts of the Bible they’ll believe, but the entire narrative of Creation – Fall – Redemption – Final Redemption is woven tightly into the fabric of the entire biblical account. It is a full worldview. And it helps us understand how we are stewards of the living God, even in the midst of messy corruption; waiting not for a day when man figures out how to save the earth, but being faithful stewards of this beautiful world until the day that God brings salvation to consummation for men AND the earth.

* This brief devotional is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re on week 2, discussing the relationship of man to his planet.

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