God gave us domination over the earth, so we can do whatever we want to the earth and other living creatures, right?
“Dominion” ( not “domination”) is not about power over, it’s about responsibility for. God give us responsibility for the earth and other creatures; God made us stewards of the earth.
If we want to know what God expects of stewards, we can look to the parables that Jesus told. There we learn that good stewardship isn’t about using up, and it’s not about hiding and forgetting about it, it’s about attending, nurturing and helping it to grow.
That was true of the stewardship of the master’s treasure, and it’s true of our stewardship of another treasure — the earth and its resources.
If God is love, and God creates, then perhaps the act of creation is an act of love, and the result of creation is that which is loved, and is to be cared for. We know that’s true of humanity, and there’s no reason to believe that it is not true for the rest of creation.
The first covenant God made, recorded in Genesis 9, was with “every living creature.” Later, covenants were with individuals and a community. If God is in covenant with God’s creation, I’m hesitant to intervene in the midst of that.
Long before contemporary praise songs were being sung, praise music was part of the hymnody of the people of God. Psalm 148 is a psalm (song) of praise, from several thousand years ago, to the sovereign Creator.
In it, all creation (not just humans,) but all creation praises the Creator. The heavens, the water beneath the earth, everything that has breath and more, join in praise. When we destroy that which is praising God, I think we have something serious for which to answer.
We know that in the created (natural) order, there’s amazing interdependence. As much as I dislike them — and am fearful of several — if all the insects and bugs were to disappear from the earth, humans would shortly follow suit.
But we have knowingly and unknowingly put God’s creation at risk.
I don’t think that any of us living in this culture can avoid being complicit in the abuse of the earth. Our habits are partly cultural ones, responses to the increasing prosperity of the last several generations, and a consumer mindset.
My father talked about Sam Yorty running for the mayor of Los Angeles on a platform that people would no longer have to sort their trash. Folks who were used to sorting their waste for recycling became lazy and dumped it together to go to the landfill. They saw that as progress.
But we can’t feign ignorance any longer. All of us — whether as a practicality or a matter of faith — have a responsibility to evaluate the choices that we make. All of us can at least do little things. All of us can, at the minimum, adopt a reduce/reuse/recycle mindset.
At our house, we have composted for 25 years, have been active recyclers, and have never been ones to buy bottled water. Lately, in response to a challenge by our son, we’re working to do better at remembering our canvas bags to take to the grocery store, and to take more advantage of our reusable containers for leftovers.
He’s working on getting us to take reusable containers to restaurants, so that we won’t be using the Styrofoam offered by the restaurants.
In our congregation, we are working to be more proactive in our recycling, we have begun composting all the coffee grounds and filters that we use, and have begun using washable plates and silverware for congregational meals, rather than disposable.
A member of the congregation built a rack, and we invited people to bring in their own coffee mugs, so that they can use those on Sunday mornings and during the week.
They’re responsible for washing their own mugs, and we’re using a lot fewer disposable ones. Both those actions are saving the congregation money, as well as putting less trash in the landfill.
It’s easier not to think. It’s easier not to act. It’s easier to decide that my actions won’t amount to anything. It’s easier not to be the steward that God has called me to be.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.