Abundance: Stewards of God’s Creation


What is the purpose of the human race? For generations of Presbyterians the answer was spelled out in the first question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: To Glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Of course this leads to the next question: What does it mean to glorify God? A lot of things go into this, but part of the answer to this question has to do with the relationship of human beings to the rest of the world described in the opening verses of the book of Genesis.

Read Genesis 1:26-31. This passage speaks of human beings being given dominion over the earth and all that lives in it. Sadly this has regularly been misinterpreted to simply mean that we can do whatever we want to the world. But those who first read these verses in Genesis would have recognized it as a contract like that between a Great King ruling an empire and the lesser kings and rulers who were given responsibility over smaller territories. These lesser kings were given dominion over the land they ruled, but with the expectation that they would take care of the land and its people, and live according the laws of the Great King. Dominion comes with significant responsibility and accountability.

Read Genesis 2:4-16. Why does God create the first human being from the dust of the earth (Adam is the generic Hebrew word for human being, which literally means ‘made of earth’)? Because, “there was no one to till the ground.” Adam’s role and ours is to be a kind of gardener of creation, tending to it and keeping healthy.

Drawing from Biblical texts like these the contemporary Presbyterian confession of faith called Living Faith, describes the role of human beings this way:

2.4.1 Though life is a gift from God, human life depends upon the created world. Our care for the world must reflect God’s care. We are not owners, but stewards of God’s good earth. Concerned with the well-being of all of life we welcome the truths and insights of all human skill and science about the world and the universe.

2.4.2 Our stewardship calls us to explore ways of love and justice in respecting God’s creation and in seeking its responsible use for the common good.

Have you previously seen a connection between care for the environment and being a Christian? Is care for the earth a part of your faith or the faith of others that you know?

In earlier sessions I’ve reflected on how our relative wealth and standard of living affect how we relate to God and to each other (especially to those poorer than us here in Canada and around the world). I would also suggest that they effect our ability to live out our calling to be stewards of God’s Creation.

  • Climate change is an established scientific reality
  • Mass extinction of millions of species and the endangered status of others is a reality
  • The destruction of habitat around the world is a reality
  • The depletion of a variety of natural resource is a reality
  • This is directly linked to our present standard of living and way of life
  • If everyone in the world lived like Canadians we would need 3.8 earths to support that standard of living

The Bible often talks about how our sins affect the land beneath our feet and our relationship to it:

  • Read: Genesis 4:8-16 (the effect of Cain’s sin on the ground); Leviticus 18:24-30 (the land itself will remove Israel if they reject God’s purpose for them)
  • Remember Leviticus 25 (the land and its blessings are God’s, and we are just tenants)

How might we make environmental stewardship a more integral part of Christian faith in a way that reflects the teaching of the Bible?

Abundance: What About Money?

canadian money

For this session I want to start with a few questions to get us thinking about the way we view money:

  • How comfortable are you talking about money? How willing would you be to share the details of your annual income, or your total assets with friends, family, or your church family? Would you say that these are taboo subjects?
  • How comfortable are you with handling your money? Do you have and stick to a monthly or annual budget for your household? Do you understand how to best save, invest and spend your money?
  • Where did your beliefs about money come from? Who taught you to handle money? Are these things you have taught your own children?

Here’s one more question: what’s an easy way to see if what you believe matches what you actually do? Just look at what you spend your money on. While we don’t often think of them that way, our budgets are moral documents: they end up being statements of purpose and priorities. And if you have any doubt, just look at the role the annual Federal Budget plays for the Canadian Government. Our elected representatives will say many things about what their priorities are during elections and after, but we look to the budget to see what they will actually do.

So, what would your annual budget say about your priorities? How much would go to basics like housing, food, clothing, transportation (and are these basics truly basic, or do we choose more costly brands and items for our staples)? How much on entertainment, wants and conveniences? How much would go towards saving or perhaps servicing debts? How much would go towards helping others and supporting causes you believe in?

Now we can only do this task if we keep a budget and keep a record of how well we are sticking to it. And from personal experience I can say that it’s a tough thing to do when life gets busy. Because I do my taxes myself and because part of that for me as a minister is keeping track of my housing expenses I at least know that, as well as my charitable giving for the year. One goal I’ve set for when my family and I get settled here in Ancaster is for us to keep better track of expenses, both for practical reasons and to get a better sense of what our spending says about our priorities.

One approach to setting priorities in the Bible is the what the Old Testament calls the Tithe.

  • Read Deuteronomy 14:22-29 & 26:1-15

Some have suggested a smaller portion be set apart today in places like Canada because our taxes support the poor and social services – say 5%. It’s also worth noting that the New Testament never mentions a specific proportion to give (perhaps because the writers assume the tithe). At the same time the Apostle Paul speaks extensively about proportional giving in his second letter to the Corinthians, and that this proportional giving should be generous.

  • Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:6-15

One other thing the New Testament does is remind us is that we shouldn’t think 5 or 10% is an upper limit – a goal to reach and be proud of (if we set that as a goal). Jesus in his teaching celebrated those who gave incredible proportions of what they had and called on some to give away shocking amounts of their wealth.

  • Read Mark 12:41-44
  • Read Luke 19:1-10
  • Read Mark 10:17-31

In these stories we meet a poor woman who gave a small amount, but one that was a huge proportion of her total income; a rich man who learned justice and generosity in response to Jesus’ compassion; and a rich man who despaired when he heard what Jesus asked him to give away. Each gives a different window on what it means to give proportionally, and  reminder that this will mean different things to people in different circumstances.

But whatever we give it should be proportional and demonstrate our priorities: to care for our neighbours (especially those in need) and support the work of God’s Kingdom. We should also remember that generosity is something to work toward and grow with our faith. Jesus takes us as we are and by his grace moves us to where he calls us to be. This applies to every area of our lives, including our money, and we can give thanks that he is generous.