In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth and the human being to inhabit them,
“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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:28-31a. NRSV)
Stewardship is part of our DNA: God created us to care for the earth and for one another. Out of God’s abundance, our Creator provided food and plenty for all of God’s creatures, and it was very good. Stewardship of the earth and its resources, the providence of God, is an important part of our being in the world.
The book of Genesis goes on to describe what happens when we do not share generously the abundance of God’s gifts. Cain kills Abel out of jealousy, and in his continuing resentment asks God, “Am I his keeper?” (Genesis 4:1-9). Selfishness breeds violence which breeds contempt even against the Creator. Yet God remains good, marking Cain for survival instead of reprisal (Genesis 4:15).
By the time of Noah, “the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and … every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5, NRSV). But our ancestors’ wickedness and heartlessness had implications not only for humanity but for the whole breath of creation, for the entire breadth of the earth. What we do affects not only ourselves but, because God created us to tend the earth, because its stewardship is part of our relationship with our Creator, our creation, ourselves, then our failure is catastrophic for the whole world.
Yet God, Creator, cannot abide destruction for long; God remains good.
Religious leaders play an important role in fighting climate change by sharing not only practical reasons to take action to protect the environment with their followers, but also spiritual, ethical and religious reasons …
We are stewards of more than our own welfare. From the beginning, our call is not to selfishness but to abundance; not to exploitation but to awe at the providence of our Creator.
For now, our call is to repentance: the stewardship of confession, of mitigation, of reparation, for one sibling’s violence toward another; for the wickedness that fills the human heart with greed instead of grace.
For God remains good; for all of our failings, for all of creation, God’s mercy may yet endure.
As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night
shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22, NRSV)
Rosalind C Hughes is Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, and author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing; and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence. Find a bonus blog poem on angelic appearances at rosalindchughes.com