Christian Stewardship with a Global Perspective: A Faculty Statement
We confess God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the creator of the heavens and the earth. All things in heaven and on earth are brought into being in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ, and in him all things hold together (Col. 1:15-20; Jn. 1:1-5; Heb. 1:1-4). As part of that creation, we are recipients of God's bountiful grace, and our chief responsibility is to glorify God as all powerful and as the source of all good. One important way to glorify God is to treat all of creation with respect because it belongs to him.
We believe that scripture reveals proper relationships between human beings and God, human beings and other human beings, and human beings and the rest of creation. God and human beings have a relationship through God’s role as creator (Gen. 1:26-28, 27), savior (Jn. 3:16), and sustainer (Ps. 8:5-8; Jn. 5:17). Our relationship with God defines our relationship to other living things, for God’s covenant with human beings includes "every living creature that is with us, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth" (Gen. 9:10). Human beings have relationships with one another (Mt. 7:12; Mk. 12:31) as creations of God. We have a relationship with nature through our necessary connection to it and by our God-given responsibility of stewardship (Gen. 1:26, 28). God also has a relationship with nature which is independent of our relationship to him (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25; Lev. 25:1-5; Job 38, 39; Ps. 24:1, 104:16-23), and that relationship is reciprocal (Ps. 96:11-13; Rom. 8:21).
We understand that nature plays a fundamental role in all of these relationships. God continues to interact with human beings through the natural processes of the world. Because God has chosen the sphere of nature as the setting for human interaction, his covenant with us gives us the responsibility of caring for, nurturing, respecting, sustaining, and replenishing his creation. We often respond by viewing nature as a commodity to be done with as we please. However, God’s relationship to non-human nature, which has intrinsic value, calls for a higher ethic.
God saw the wisdom of making us a part of nature; therefore, we should not be dismissive of creation because we are meant for "another world." Because we critique one extreme, that of nature as mere commodity, does not imply that we should swing to the opposite pole, that of nature as worthy of worship. As Lord Byron wrote in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, "I love not man the less but Nature more."
According to scripture, God, humanity, and the world are fundamentally connected. As Creator, God called the world and human beings into existence and, more specifically, called human beings to care for the non-human elements of creation.
Stewardship is caring for all of creation on behalf of the Creator; it indicates that God calls human beings to engage in responsible acts of kindness and benevolence toward the rest of creation. Good stewardship recognizes that God’s love for the creation implies that the world has intrinsic value. Stewardship, then, involves living sustainability and cooperatively with all of God’s creation and includes taking care of plants, animals, natural resources, and other human beings. Since God created us as social beings, we should be guided by love for our neighbor. To this end, stewardship requires wisdom in making use of the creation, a wisdom which acts justly and ensures the availability of the blessings of creation for the oppressed of this present world and for our descendants.
Communal worship informs our identity. It is an important context in which we learn to understand our relationships with God, other human beings, and the rest of creation. Worship, in its most general sense, is encountering, seeking, praising, and adoring God; for Christians, it should be a continuous process. We encounter God in various ways. Communal worship involves us in a special relationship with God and the people of God. Yet God also calls us to incorporate the natural elements of bread, wine, and water in our worship. Our whole life should be worship of God in that we show concern, respect, and love for all parts of creation; in other words, we are to be good stewards. In our solitude, we face God, stripped of our pretenses and faced with the realization that we are finite but natural beings. In this encounter, we look at ourselves as we are and accept the challenge to be transformed into the image of his Son. We are compelled to recognize that nature is an essential part of our worship; and to make worship as rich as possible, we need to take stewardship seriously.
The biblical picture of God’s creation in its perfect state is one of harmony among all creation. We have diminished that harmony; but we believe, because of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice, that harmony will one day be restored. In fact, the whole creation is "groaning in travail" as it waits for its release from the "bondage to decay" (Rom. 8:21). However, Paul’s statement does not obviate our responsibility to try to sustain and nurture the various relationships: God with humans, humans with humans, God with nature, and humans with nature. Indeed, the Christian community is called to be a visible sign in the present, anticipating the full manifestation of the coming kingdom. Therefore, properly maintaining these relationships is Christian stewardship with a global perspective.
This document is the product of the Global Stewardship Institutional Mentoring Program sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) and the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN).
The Abilene Christian University Global Stewardship Task Force was Fredrick Aquino, Jim Cooke, David Dillman, Paul Morris, Carolyn Thompson and Michael Sadler.
Composed in 1999