It doesn’t matter what you believe will happen to this world in the end. Maybe you believe God will destroy the earth, or maybe you believe God will restore the earth.* I don’t want to talk about the dispensation or tribulation or Revelation or any version of millennialism. I don’t care about your political affiliation, whether you’re a democrat, a republican or a libertarian. Let’s set it all aside for ten minutes.
What matters is right now.
In John 1:14 God put on skin to come and live with us. The word for dwell in Greek means “to pitch a tent”. God came to set up camp right here with us, on this earth. Which shouldn’t be surprising, because all the way back in Genesis 1 God created this world as a backdrop to our lives. God created this earth to be the setting of our stories. God created time and space and seasons.
We’ve been singing songs for so long about how this world is not our home, that we forget that this world is our home.
Our theologies might diverge when we start talking about where and when and how things will end up, but this world right now is where we are and God designed it for us. And to treat it as if it is merely an obstacle to our final resting place, is to reject God’s gift. Sure, there is brokenness and sin here. I’m not disregarding that. Of course, there is something greater to come, I’m not denying that. I simply want us to agree that God created this world, and God loves this world so much that he wants to save it (John 3:16-17). Not just people, but the whole thing.
We are not the only masterpiece of God. In fact, we are the reason that all of God’s artwork is distorted. But, we are the only piece of God’s design that was given the job to steward the rest of God’s creation. We were created in such a way that we are able to reflect God to the rest of the creation. We were given the duty of caring for it. Stewarding it.
The Greek word for steward is oikonomos (where we get economy). This word means manager. In the ancient world, a steward was a person who did not have wealth of their own, but distributed the wealth of their master in the way that their master wanted it distributed. They were responsible for spending it and investing it and securing it however their master instructed them to.
A steward could not stop by the market and stock up on textiles and produce for themselves. A steward could not buy livestock for themselves. A steward could not buy their freedom for themselves. A steward was required to use their master’s resource how the master wanted them to be used.
And here we are.
Instructed to be stewards of God’s creation. This includes everything. It stretches into and reaches every bit of our lives. Paul says, “each of you should us whatever gift you received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (Note: gift and grace in this verse are the same word. Your gifts are not earned. God’s grace has been shown to you.)
God has given us everything we have.
Remember this when you go to the grocery store. Are you buying items that were grown locally, in season? Are you supporting a local farmer or a corporation? Are you purchasing meat that was raised in a way that is helpful or harmful to the environment?
Remember this when you need a new shirt. Who made this shirt? What were the working conditions like for the employee? What impact does the company have on the environment? What did it take to get that shirt from production to your closet?
Remember this when you need to pick up disposable cups. How does this store treat their employees? Do they pay a living wage? Do they treat them fairly? Where are their products produced? Are these cups recyclable? Will you recycle them? Why do you need disposable goods?
Remember this when you pick up your coffee beans. There are 35.8 million men, women and children trapped in modern day slavery. 26% of them are children. 60,000 are in the United States. Child slavery is used in the coffee industry. Is it worth buying fair trade coffee that guarantees farmers will earn a fair income, environmental sustainability so that they can continue to produce crops year after year and fair labor conditions for employees?
Remember this when you are unclear of your purpose. You belong to God. You breathe because God has breathed life into your nostrils. You are here only because of God’s grace. Your purpose is to steward God’s creation. To manage it for God and reflect God to it.
I don’t care about your eschatological (study of end times) views. It doesn’t matter what you think will happen to this world in the end. There is no view that changes the fact that God created this world, God created humans to steward this world, and God loves this world. It’s your responsibility, your purpose, your life’s mission to care for both the human and nonhuman creation of God.
*Actually, I really really do think it matters what will happen, but that's another conversation.