Lesson 10*March 2-8
Stewardship and the Environment
Memory Text: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ “(Genesis 1:28, NKJV).
The world in which we live is a gift of love from the Creator
God, from ‘Him who made heaven and the earth, the sea and the springs of water’ (Rev. 14:7, NKJV). Within this creation He placed humans, set intentionally in relationship with Himself, other persons, and the surrounding world. Therefore, as Seventh-day Adventists, we hold its preservation and nurture to be intimately related to our service to Him. . . .
“Since human poverty and environmental degradation are interrelated, we pledge ourselves to improve the quality of life for all people. Our goal is a sustainable development of resources while meeting human needs. . . .
“In this commitment we confirm our stewardship of God’s creation and believe that total restoration will be complete only when God makes all things new.”-Excerpted from “Caring for Creation—A Statement on the Environment by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.”
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 9.?
Dominion Given at Creation
According to Genesis 1:26, Adam’s dominion extended to all other created entities—in the sea, on land, and in the air. Dominion includes the idea of ruling or having power over these creatures. Nothing is said about dominion over the forces of nature themselves but only over the creatures. And, according to the text, this rule was universal: Adam was to be, essentially, the ruler of the earth.
Read again Psalm 8. What is David’s response to the honor God gave to humans? What does it mean that we have been given “honor and glory,” especially in the context of humans having been given dominion over the earth?
According to Genesis 2:19, one of Adam’s earliest tasks was to name the animals. Names had great meaning in biblical times. One’s name represented one’s person and, often, one’s status. The authority to give names to the birds and beasts was confirmation of Adam’s status as ruler over the animals.
Read Genesis 2:15. In what ways do you see the principle of stewardship revealed here?
Adam was assigned the task of caring for the Garden, to manage it and tend to its needs. The Hebrew root, smr, translated here as “keep” it, often means “to watch over” or “to protect.” The Garden was a gift to Adam, an expression of God’s love, and Adam was now given responsibility over it, another example of the dominion that Adam received at the time of Creation.
How should our understanding of God as the Creator, or even more specifically our understanding of the Creation story itself, impact the ways in which we treat the environment? Why should our understanding of these things protect us from either gross indifference toward the environment or, in contrast, a fanatical devotion to it?
Caring for Other Creatures
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Ps.50:10). What in this text touches on the topic of our stewardship of the earth?
Read Revelation 4:11. How does this text contrast radically with the common atheistic notions of a creation without a creator, a creation that comes into being purely by chance alone?
Creation of the animals was not an accident or an afterthought. God intentionally created them. It was His will that they should exist, and this principle should guide our treatment of them (see also Exod. 23:5, 12; Prov. 12:10; Luke 14:5).
Indeed, cruelty toward animals and indifference toward their suffering are widely recognized as symptomatic of personality disorders. Many organizations have been established to promote good treatment of animals, and rightly so.
However, at the same time, some people have gone so far as to claim that humans are not intrinsically more important than animals, and so humans should not be given preferential treatment. This, in many ways, is a train of thought that flows logically from an evolutionary model of human origins. After all, if we and the animals are separated only by time and chance, why should we be any more special than they are? One philosopher has even argued that a chicken, or even a fish, has more “personhood” than does a fetus in the womb or even a newborn infant. However ridiculous these ideas might sound, they can be derived, with a fair amount of logic, from an atheistic evolutionary model of human origins.
Of course, such ideas are not supported in Scripture. Humans have special status in God’s plan in contrast to the animals.(See Gen. 3:21, Exod. 29:38, Lev. 11:3.)
Put yourself in the mind of an atheist evolutionist and work through the reasons for why you think that animals should be treated no differently than humans. What should this tell you about how important our presuppositions are in determining the outcome of our thought?
The Sabbath and the Environment
As we have seen, the concept of stewardship, in the context of the way in which we take care of the planet, is tied directly to the Creation. Our views on Creation will influence our views on the way in which we should relate to the Creation.
For some, the Creation is to be exploited, used, even pillaged to whatever degree necessary in order to fulfill our own desires and wants. Others, in contrast, all but worship the Creation itself (see Rom. 1:25). Then there is the biblical view, which should give us a balanced perspective on the way in which we relate to the world that the Lord created for us.
Read Exodus 20:8-11. What do we find in this commandment that relates to stewardship?
“God set aside the seventh-day Sabbath as a memorial and perpetual reminder of His creative act and establishment of the world. In resting on that day, Seventh-day Adventists reinforce the special sense of relationship with the Creator and His creation. Sabbath observance underscores the importance of our integration with the total environment.”-Excerpted from “Caring for Creation—A Statement on the Environment.”
By pointing us to the fact that God created us and the world that we inhabit, the Sabbath is a constant reminder that we are not wholly autonomous creatures able to do whatever we wish to others and to the world itself. Sabbath should teach us that we are, indeed, stewards, and that stewardship entails responsibilities. And, as we can see in the commandment itself, responsibility extends to how we treat those who are “under” us.
Think about how you treat other people, particularly those who are under your dominion. Are you treating them with respect, fairness, and grace? Or are you taking advantage of the power that you have over them? If the latter, remember, you will one day have to answer for your actions.
Stewards of Our Health
As we have seen throughout this quarter, God’s original Creation was “good,” even “very good.” Everything and everyone came forth from the hand of the Creator in a state of perfection. There was no sickness, no disease, no death. Contrary to the evolutionary model—in which disease, sickness, and death are part of the very means of creation—these things came only after the Fall, after the entrance of sin. Thus, it is only against the background of the Creation story that we can better understand the biblical teaching about health and healing.
Our bodies are the vehicle for our brain, and it is through our brain that the Holy Spirit communicates with us. If we wish to have communion with God, we must take care of our bodies and brains. If we abuse our bodies, we destroy ourselves, both physically and spiritually. According to these texts, the whole question of health itself, and how we take care of our bodies, the “temple of God,” is a moral issue, one filled with eternal consequences.
Care of our health is a vital part of our relationship to God. Obviously, some aspects of our health are beyond our power. We all have defective genes, we all are exposed to unknown chemicals or other damaging agents, and we are all at risk of physical injury that may damage our health. God knows all this. But to the extent that lies within our power, we are to do our best to maintain our bodies, made in the image of God.
“Let none who profess godliness regard with indifference the health of the body, and flatter themselves that intemperance is no sin, and will not affect their spirituality. A close sympathy exists between the physical and the moral nature. The standard of virtue is elevated or degraded by the physical habits. . . . Any habit which does not promote healthful action in the human system degrades the higher and nobler faculties.”-Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald,Jan. 25, 1881.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV). How does this text help to set the foundation for a biblically based concept of stewardship?
We often tend to think of stewardship in terms of money. As we’ve seen this week, however, stewardship involves much more than just that. Yet, whether dealing with money or with environmental concerns or our own health, there are certain principles involved in good stewardship, principles that have their ultimate foundation in the Creation, as depicted in Genesis. In the end, because God is our Creator, and because everything we have is a gift from Him, we are obligated before Him to be good stewards of whatever has been entrusted to us.
Read Matthew 25:14-30 to see how this parable illustrates the rewards of good stewardship. What is the message of this parable regarding the principles of stewardship in general?
“To His servants Christ commits ‘His goods’-something to be put to use for Him. He gives ‘to every man his work.’ Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Each is to work in co-operation with Christ for the salvation of souls. Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.”-Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 326, 327.
What are you doing with the talents with which you have been entrusted (remember—everything good comes from “the Father of the heavenly lights”)? What choices can you make that will enable you to use these gifts in better service for the Lord’s work?
Further Study: “Christ’s followers have been redeemed for service. Our Lord teaches that the true object of life is ministry. Christ Himself was a worker, and to all His followers He gives the law of service—service to God and to their fellow men. Here Christ has presented to the world a higher conception of life than they had ever known. By living to minister for others, man is brought into connection with Christ. The law of service becomes the connecting link which binds us to God and to our fellow men.”-Ellen G, White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 326.
- Some secularists have proposed that the value of life should not be measured by whether the life is human but by its potential to live a pleasant life. They might value a young, healthy chimpanzee more than they do an old, diseased human. For instance, read the following quote from Australian Peter Singer, who argues that, in certain cases, humans shouldn’t have any more rights than some animals do: “Far from having concern for all life, or a scale of concern impartially based on the nature of the life in question, those who protest against abortion but dine regularly on the bodies of chickens, pigs and calves show only a biased concern for the lives of members of our species. For on any fair comparison of morally relevant characteristics, like rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, autonomy, pleasure, pain, and so on, the calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy—while if we make the comparison with a fetus of less than three months old, a fish would show more signs of consciousness.”-Peter Singer, Writings on an Ethical Life (New York, N.Y.: The Ecco Press, 2000), p. 156.Singer, of course, is an evolutionist; thus, he believes that there’s really no overt qualitative difference between us and the animals. We just have evolved into something different from what they did, that’s all.What is radically wrong with this picture? How should we as Christians respond to this kind of thinking?
- If you can find it, bring to class the entire text of “Caring for Creation—A Statement on the Environment.” (This statement can be found at adventist.org/beliefs/statements/main-stat5.html.) Otherwise, use the sections quoted in this week’s Sabbath study. Focus on how it ties in the Genesis Creation to the environment. Dwell more on how a proper view of Creation can protect us from taking an extreme position.
A Heart Full of Thanks
Ujjal is a young man, but a hole in his heart had left him chronically tired and subject to fainting spells. He couldn't work or even ride his bicycle.
One day Ujjal's friend Panalal told him that he was learning about Jesus, the powerful and loving God whom Christians worship. Panalal invited Ujjal to a meeting in his home. Ujjal went, hoping that the God of the Christians would heal him. He listened intently as Gopal, the Global Mission pioneer, explained that God forgives our sins if we believe and ask Him.
When Gopal finished his talk, he invited those with special prayer requests to stand. Ujjal stood. Gopal asked what his prayer request was, and Ujjal described his heart problem. Ujjal bowed his head while Gopal prayed. Immediately Ujjal felt an energy surge through him. He told Gopal that he believed he had been healed and that he wanted to become a Christian.
Gopal came to Ujjal's home to study the Bible, and soon Ujjal, his parents, and his two younger brothers accepted Jesus as their Savior.
The family attended an Adventist church in town, but Ujjal wanted to share his faith with others living in a nearby village. With his heart trouble gone, Ujjal rode his bicycle to the village and began sharing the gospel. He met a man with chronic stomach trouble and told him, "I know who can heal you without medicine." He told the man about Jesus and offered to pray for him. Ujjal took his pastor and Gopol to pray for the man as well, and soon this man and his family accepted Jesus as their Savior and asked to be baptized.
Ujjal asked the family to open their home to hold prayer meetings. The other villagers had been watching the family and saw the changes in their lives. One by one the man and his family invited their neighbors to let Ujjal visit them and pray for them. As the people learned about Jesus, they began taking Bible studies and preparing for baptism.
Ujjal became a lay evangelist, and so far has led more than 50 people in this village to Christ. He also began working in another village where more people are learning about the loving and all-powerful God and accepting Jesus as their Lord.
Our mission offerings help support the work of Global Mission workers such as Gopol and Ujjal in Southern Asia and around the world.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.adventistmission.org