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; John 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 (John 3:16), and sustainer (Psalm 8:5-8; John 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 (Matt. 7:12; Mark 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; Psalms 24:1, 104:16-23), and that relationship is reciprocal (Psalm 96:11-13; Romans 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 sustainably 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.
Scriptures which informed our global stewardship statement (NIV)
Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 17, 21, 25-28
4God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
10God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
12The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
17God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.
21So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
25God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you&endash;the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you&endash;every living creature on earth.
The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5 Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
2"Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
3Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4"Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone&endash;
7while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for
8"Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
12"Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16"Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
18Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19"What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
22"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the
25Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26to water a land where no man lives,
a desert with no one in it,
27to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
31"Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?
Can you loose the cords of Orion?
32Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion
over the earth?
34"Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind?
37Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
39"Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
41Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
"Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
3They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
4Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return.
5"Who let the wild donkey go free?
Who untied his ropes?
6I gave him the wasteland as his home,
the salt flats as his habitat.
7He laughs at the commotion in the town;
he does not hear a driver’s shout.
8He ranges the hills for his pasture
and searches for any green thing.
9"Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Will he stay by your manger at night?
10Can you hold him to the furrow with a harness?
Will he till the valleys behind you?
11Will you rely on him for his great strength?
Will you leave your heavy work to him?
12Can you trust him to bring in your grain
and gather it to your threshing floor?
13"The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the
14She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
15unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
16She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
18Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.
19"Do you give the horse his strength
or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
20Do you make him leap like a locust,
striking terror with his proud snorting?
21He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength,
and charges into the fray.
22He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
he does not shy away from the sword.
23The quiver rattles against his side,
along with the flashing spear and lance.
24In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground;
he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’
He catches the scent of battle from afar,
the shout of commanders and the battle cry.
26"Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread his wings toward the south?
27Does the eagle soar at your command
and build his nest on high?
28He dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is his stronghold.
29From there he seeks out his food;
his eyes detect it from afar.
30His young ones feast on blood,
and where the slain are, there is he."
5You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
1The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
11Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
12let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
13they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.
16The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the pine trees.
18The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the coneys.
19The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23Then man goes out to his work,
to his labor until evening.
24How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
8He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these."
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."
21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
9And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
"We care for the earth because God made it; God owns it; God cares for it; God wills it; God speaks through it; God acts in it" (God’s Earth Our Home, produced by the Environmental and Economic Justice/Hunger Concerns Working Group of the NCC, 1994, by Shantilal P. Bhagat).
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 included Fredrick Aquino, Jim Cooke, David Dillman, Paul Morris, Carolyn Thompson and Michael Sadler.
Composed in 1999