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Taking the Responsibility of Environmental Stewardship Seriously

Whether We Will Pursue Fulfillment of the Dominion Mandate and Great Commission The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show

The sixth question from the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship survey asks the following:

“How should we take the responsibility of environmental stewardship seriously?”

To begin to answer the question, consider that stewardship in the first place requires we are chiefly serving someone or something else besides ourselves.

In the case of environmental stewardship, therefore, where a part or the whole of the planet is in view, we ought to want to know who the planet belongs to if not us.

If we would listen, the psalmist would tell us.

The earth is Yahweh’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

Psalm 24:1-2

That is, both the earth and its fullness ultimately belong to their Maker. Both the world and everyone who lives in the world is the rightful property of the Most High. There can be no better proof of ownership than having made it in the first place.

Settling that, then, next we must know that to engage in stewardship requires that we think of ourselves as stewards. So what is a steward?

Looking to an English dictionary as a guide, we see that attending to guests and travelers is at the center of our understanding of what a steward does, and who therefore a steward is. Serving others is the activity they are primarily known for.

Thus we come back to our answer to who the environment belongs to, and add to it this notion, that humanity, made in His image both male and female since the beginning, is here for some good purpose of the master of the house. And if we are traveling in this ship at the invitation of the captain, we must consider that the guests are chiefly our fellow human beings, made specially in the image of God Most High.

If we would take environmental stewardship seriously, then, we must not get confused that the environment belongs to itself, for one, as though it is both self-aware and self-existent. Rather, it had a beginning, and was both established and set in motion by God.

Nor either, for another thing, can we conclude that the earth in its fullness belongs ultimately to us, since a house does not belong to its guests, nor does a ship, train, or plain belong to its passengers. Instead, if we would be transformed by the renewing of our mind in reading God’s Word, we must concede that Yahweh God is the Lord of heaven and earth; He is the owner of this house; He is the one to whom this vessel belongs. After all, this is the reason we call Him “the Lord.”

So also, we must take into account that this same Lord, after He made mankind and placed them in the garden, gave them a positive mandate. Not only did He give them the capacity, He also expressly encouraged and commanded them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”

Thus, serious environmental stewardship should be chiefly concerned with obedience to the letter and spirit of God’s express purpose for the world and its inhabitants, to get glory for Himself.

Yet we know, even here, that there is a tendency to forget God, and seek other gods, even if we have to make them. Remember how Israel misbehaved while Moses was meeting with God on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights to learn his laws and ways.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

Exodus 32:1

That is, they exchanged the truth for a lie, as the Apostle Paul writes in Romans. Though it was plainly evident that Yahweh had delivered them from four centuries of hard bondage in Egypt, they ordered Aaron to make them new gods of gold they could credit with delivering them.

Yet only God makes gods, ruling and reigning over them. And He tells us they are no gods at all who seek our worship, since He will unmake them just as He has made them. Thus, to direct the fashioning of new gods, with an intent to worship them instead of or besides God, is to aspire to replace God with ourselves.

Not at all the same thing as godliness, this ambition is an usurpation rather than imitation. Comparable in the question of taking environmental stewardship seriously would be forgetting that we are stewards, and instead aspiring to annex the Master’s property, or commandeer the ship He captains. This is the opposite of the sincerest form of flattery; rather it is dishonorable, and dishonoring, a kind of negative claim against the goodness, justice, faithfulness, wisdom, and power of God to know and do and provide what is best.

All manner of evil flows from such rebellion, and Paul explains this to the Christians at Rome in our New Testament epistle that bears their name.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:24-25

Yet there is a better way.

Start with the premise that the environment belongs to the Creator, who alone is to be worshiped and praised forever, and that we must know His purposes for the environment, and ourselves, in order to be good stewards of the environment, as His image-bearers here in it.

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