Stewards Of The Earth
Author: Paul A. Bartz
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
Many of the questions man faces are stewardship questions. Do we dare do this? Can we alter that? Do we have the right to dabble in this area? How should our considerations be guided? We believe that they should be guided by the knowledge that we are stewards of this earth, managing it for Another. This study will look at the Scriptures to discover what they have to say about the topic of managing the creation for the Lord. How do we go about the task of being stewards of the earth?
Genesis 1:28 is our stewardship commission for the earth. Read the passage and list what our original commission was. Note that there is more to this stewardship than just caretaking! The Steward was one charged with maintaining the property of another, usually for profit. Is there any profit commanded in the stewardship commission of Genesis 1:28? There is. What is the profit? Find the command to profit. What else are we commanded? Make a list, It should contain the following: “Be fruitful and multiply,” “fill the earth,” “subdue it,” and “rule.”
Man has been going on with the work, conscious of this commission or unconscious of it, for several thousand years. Has man completed any of the task? Man is multiplying. Does this commission bear on any social issues of today, such as abortion? We are commissioned to fill the earth. Is it full? Scientists have calculated that every person on earth could have their own half-acre of land, and there would still be thousands of acres left over – on the North American continent alone!
Discuss the between the commands to subdue the earth, and to rule it. Does subdue mean beat it flat? Is there any license here to do with the earth what we please? Remember, stewards manage for the owner. Read Psalm 24:1. How could we acknowledge this fact in the stewardship of the earth? Could we find a pattern to follow in our stewardship of the earth by looking at how God has dealt with us? What might be some of the elements of that pattern? God encourages and leads, He does not often force. God works even with sinners to cause them to bear fruit. God would have all men to be saved. Can these be translated into attitudes we can use to approach our rulership over the earth?
The better place to find principles is to search the Scriptures for direct instruction. Scripture spends remarkably little time on how we should exercise our stewardship of the earth, at least explicitly. So we need to begin with the commission and find principles we can apply to this part of our life as well.
Our first principle is to subdue the earth. That means we are to gain control. In order to do that we must learn about the earth. Then we need to learn how to get the creation to do what we are seeking from it. Once we have done that we are able to rule. Then we need the wisdom to rule profitably for ourselves and for the owner.
But there are additional problems that the original stewards did not have to face, at first (read Genesis 9:2-3). The source of the problem is not a difficult owner, but our sin. Turn to Genesis 3:17-19. The next great principle of our stewardship is the reality of this curse. Read Romans 8:19-22. What does this tell us about the creation we are to manage? Notice the words “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth.” What sort of image of creation does that give you? The world we are stewards of is said to be subjected futility (v. 20). How should that color our stewardship? Do we dare stop being stewards? Is it helpful to recognize the failings in the creation? Why?
The next principle is not listed as a principle of world management, but a principle of life. Read 1 Corinthians 10:24. How would you state this principle in stewardship terms? Is this the pattern we see around us? Do you see it in your own stewardship (of your corner of the creation)? Discuss the possible effects and changes if everyone followed this principle. How much of life would be changed?
1 Corinthians 10:31 probably caught your eye as you checked the context of the last passage we read. It is our next stewardship principle. This ties in well with the idea of stewards of another’s property, doesn’t it? The principle is restated in different words in Colossians 3:17. How are these two passages similar? How are they different? How would they affect the reality we live in, if we all lived according to them?
2 Peter 3:3-13 addresses our present situation well. Man believes the earth is permanent. He must manage for permanence. Peter says the earth is temporary. How will that change our view of long-term management? Notice how God views time. Does that suggest anything about a caution we must exercise? It is important to know that this earth is not intended to last forever. Neither are its resources. How can we balance the knowledge of the temporariness of the earth with the uncertainty of how long this temporary will be expected to last? What benefits do we derive from this? What cautions? How would you tie the end of v. 11 in with this principle? Does it suggest a sacredness to even this stewardship responsibility?
Luke gives us a couple of stewardship parables; Luke 12:16-21 and Luke 16:19-31. Each parable demonstrates the problem of living within the creation, but without the Creator. In Luke 12, Jesus makes the point explicitly when he says, “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
The principle in view here is the principle that our stewardship is always connected to Jesus Christ. There is no faithful steward who is not in a faithful and intimate relationship with God. Remember Romans 8:19. Even the creation we manage is looking for the revealing of the true stewards. All creation watches, eagerly awaiting this. It is an important principle of our stewardship that it is only properly done in a loving relationship with God, and that the giving of this stewardship is to bring us, and others, into that relationship. We, too, are part of the creation we have been ordered to subdue and rule over. How can we do that? Is there any hint in the words of Abraham to the rich man in Luke 16? If you can’t see it, look at verse 31. What does the phrase “Moses and the Prophets” mean? Jesus later proved the truth of His words here, when He rose from the dead, and those who knew that He had risen still refused to believe! What principle of managing ourselves does this parable tell us? Use the Scriptures – and believe.
Close with a prayer for God to guide us and keep us in these times, that He would lead us to good, faithful stewardship, and give thanks for all of the blessings of the creation which we enjoy.
1985 Bible Science Newsletter.
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