The Earth Is the Lord’s
I have been reading Ministry: International Journal for Pastors again. In the September issue there is an article by Skip Bell titled “Stewards of this Gift.” He begins with the story of his proposal of marriage to the woman who became his wife. When he opened the box which contained the diamond-studded watch he was giving her as an engagement present, he asked, “Do you like it?” She responded, “Like it? I love it!” Bell asked in return, “You love it?” “Yes! Wow! I love it!” A good way to begin a relationship.
He then imagines the Creator showing the first man and woman the newly-created world. “Do you like it?” God asks. “Like it! We love it!” they answer. God responds, “You love it?” “Yes! Wow! We love it!” is their reply. A good way to begin a relationship.
This was God’s intent: that humans should enjoy the beautiful world that had been created for their pleasure. What a home they had been given! Trees, flowers, animals, fish, birds, mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, lakes, oceans—all for their enjoyment. And under the surface, resources untold to help them in their stewardship of the earth.
Bell bemoans the horrible way in which we have used all the good things God has given us. Eradicating species of animals, birds and fish. Leveling mountains to get at the resources hidden within them—not the only way to reach these resources, but the quickest. Polluting rivers, lakes and oceans with chemical waste, plastic waste—any waste we want to get rid of in a hurry. Denuding forests and not replanting, so that good, productive soil runs away and is lost, making the land arid and unfit for growing things.
Psalm 24 begins: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those that dwell therein.” An important reminder: this is God’s earth, not ours. One way or another the world is going to be what God wants it to be. We can lead, we can follow, or we’d better get out of the way. We don’t dare oppose God or God’s plans for the earth. To do so will only bring agony and sorrow, whether by some God-sent punishment or the natural outcomes of our own foolishness and wastefulness.
Bell makes three points. First, facts don’t cease to be facts just because we want them not to be facts. The earth’s temperature is rising. Species are becoming extinct. Natural resources are being squandered. These are facts whether we like them or not.
Second, we can observe the effects of human wastefulness with our own eyes. If we fail to see what is going wrong with the world it’s because we don’t want to see. Our blindness to what’s happening will not stop it from happening.
Third, we confirm the importance (to us) of stewardship in our daily lives. What we do with—and to—the world around us reflects whether or not we are good stewards. It doesn’t matter how we talk the talk, it’s how we walk the walk that counts.
Bell suggests four things we can do.
1) Confirm that the earth is a precious gift from God.
2) Connect to the land, water and air.
3) Confess and repent. We’ve been bad stewards. I remind you that repentance means to turn around and go in a different direction. Confession alone won’t help. We must also change our ways.
4) Act! Do what you can to become good stewards of God’s gift to us.
We don’t have time to waste. Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation—for us, and for God’s world.