Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stewardship & the Environment

Stewardship and the Environment

March 9, 2013
Larry R Evans

Has the Adventist Church Been Too Silent?

Sometimes it seems, the only insights we see gain from the book of Genesis are two things:  God created the earth in seven days and that evolution was not part of God’s formula in creating the earth.  Can there be anything else that God wants us to see in this first book of the Bible?  I think so!! Could it be possible that these two truths are assumptions that open the door for seeing much more about God, this earth and us!  Are we stuck at the threshold?  Today we will venture only slightly farther but hopefully we will begin to see a more full picture of our Creator God, His plans, His concerns and just how we fit into all of that.

I doubt many of you know about the compilations of statements in a book entitled, Statements, Guidelines and Other Documents which is produced by the Communication Department of the General Conference.  It contains official statements voted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church on several topics, some of which are quite relevant today such as: “Family Violence,” “Homosexuality,” “AIDS,” “Human Gene Therapy” and “Sabbath Observance” to name a few.  In the context of today’s Sabbath School lesson there is also a topic covered in this book called “Caring for Creation—A Statement on the Environment.”  Note a few comments from this section:

“The world in which we live is a gift of love from the Creator God, . . . The human decision to disobey Go broke the original order of creation, resulting in a disharmony alien to His purposes.  Thus our air and waters are polluted, forests and wildlife plundered, and natural resources exploited.  . . . Seventh-day Adventists are committed to respectful, cooperative relationships among all persons, recognizing our common origin and realizing our human dignity as a gift from the Creator Since human poverty and environmental degradation are interrelated, we pledge ourselves to improve the quality of life for all people.  Our great goal is a sustainable development of resources while meeting human needs.”

A full issue of the Dynamic Steward has been dedicated to the issue of “Stewards of the Earth. (Coming in the April –May, 2013 issue).

Quiz Outlining Our Study for Today

1.             We have been commissioned to read, study, pray and share the “everlasting gospel” but we are not to be anxious about the earth and its environment. (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:19-22; Rev 11:18)  False (though anxious isn’t the right descriptor)

“God 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.’” (Gen 1:28)

From the hand of the Creator man came but he came with a three-fold responsibility and all three had implications regarding the environment.
1.    “fill the earth.” –also given to Noah after the flood. (Gn 9:1)
2.    “subdue” the earth – Heb.  “to bring under control” 
3.    “hold dominion”  over the other creatures.  The idea is rulership—in a similar way as when God rules --

When Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden the LORD gave to Adam to special tasks: “to work it and to take care of it.” (2:15, NIV)
1.    “to work it” – (abad) that is “to tend to it” or “to serve it”.  They were to work tending to the plants and keeping them under control.
2.    “to take care of it.” (shamar) that is to “keep” or to “guard” the Garden.  The implication is to guard against the intrusion of any bad thing which ultimately Adam failed to do.
It is of interest that some see the Garden as a striking parallel with the sanctuary.  In Lev. 3:5-10 the Levites serving as priests carried a similar role with regards to the care and keeping of the sanctuary.

2.             Stewardship is primarily about tithe and offerings. (Matt. 6:20-21, 33-34; Ps 24:1,2; 33:6-8)  False

 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)

A steward is someone appointed to carry out a responsibility on behalf of the owner of some piece of property. To do this the steward needs to manage the property in the way the owners wishes.  This is exactly the responsibility given to Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28) and where they failed opening the way for sin to enter.

What about us?  If the “heart” (Matt 6:19) were the Garden of Eden would we be any more successful that Adam and Eve?  Are we good stewards of our hearts or of our homes?

3.             How we treat God’s creations is a reflection of our appreciation of Him. (Jonah 4:2, 10-11; Rev. 4:11; Ps 104) True or False?

Does stewardship have anything to do with the Gospel Commission?  Would that have any implications to the animal and plant world?  How so?  Do the following texts have any implications as to how we might answer that question?

2 He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. . . .
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:2, 10-11)

Note the two rewards referenced in Rev. 1s:18 and for what reasons:
18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Rev. 11:18)

4.             The seventh-day Sabbath is a constant reminder that our responsibilities are not confined to ourselves, our families, our church or even to our nation.  (Rom. 1:22-23; Ex. 20:8-11; Zech. 8:20-23; ) True

The way we view Creation will influence our views of the creation (man, the earth itself and animals) as well as the creator.  Do the following two passages compliment each other?  How

22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Rom. 1:22-23)

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Ex. 20:-8-11)

What impact does true “heart” religion have upon others outside of  our immediate influence?

23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”( Zech 8:23)

5.             Which is more correct:  “Using the talents God has given us:
a.     We should be the best we can be while living in this world?   OR
b.     We should be the best for the world that we can be?
What is the difference and why should it matter? (Matt. 25:14-30)

The difference is so subtle but what a difference.  Think for a moment of those who have made a real difference in your life.  Were they the best “in” the world or were able somehow to be the best “for” you an some given moment in your life.  You see, we tend think in a competitive world where “dog eats dog” and where “second place is the place of the first loser.”  But is that how God made us!  Or did he make us “for” each other, “for” the world, “for” Him.  What a difference it makes as to how we use the gifts He has given to us.  Comparing ourselves with the “Jones’” hardly makes sense in such a picture.  Weighing your skills, your talents up against someone elses’ isn’t a picture of the Creation God established.  Rather, He created us to serve our best not for ourselves, our image or for some newspaper column.  We are called to be stewards – those who care for others as God Himself cares for us.  What a joy!  What a privilege and what a reprieve from the world of bent on being the “first in line.”  That edge in each of our lives is the difference between success and significance. That is the subtle edge between being the best in the world and being the best for the world.

6.             What we do to our bodies is our business and no one else’s? (1 Cor. 6:19.20)  False

19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19,20)

Yes, contrary to our culture, contrary to advocates of this present age’s independence, but we have a responsibility to the One who made us and who created us to a greater potential than the limitations imposed by our “independence.” 

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  (John 10:10)
Concluding Thoughts

“The biblical doctrine of Creation affects the way we pursue our roles as stewards.  We seek to model our behavior on the example set by the Creator who values all creatures, but humans most of all (Luke 12:7). The doctrine of Creation helps us maintain a balanced approach to stewardship.  It says we should avoid the extreme of showing callous disregard for the environment, treating it as nothing more than a money pit open to our greed and exploitation, and we should also avoid the other extreme of regarding nature as divine and worthy of worship, and considering the animals to have the same value as do the people.
   “This physical world has great value because it was made by the God who made us and who loves His creation.  It is intended for our benefit, and we in turn, have been appointed to care for it.  That is what it means to be a good steward.”  (L. James Gibson, Origins, p.100)

After study and reflection of this lesson how would you define “stewardship?”  How would you describe your own stewardship and in what areas do you think you need to grow?  What about our Church and our church?

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