A reflection by Rev Canon Dr Claire Nye Hunter, an Anglican priest in Grahamstown, South Africa.
‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.’ (Psalm 24:1)
The earth does not belong to us. It belongs to God. It is a gift – a home that we share with the rest of creation. But with this gift comes responsibility.
In Genesis 1, God instructed humans to ‘rule over’ the creatures of the earth, and to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’. These passages have been used to justify abuse of the earth.
Some people believe that the instruction to rule means we have absolute authority over creation. In this view, nature is a resource for humans to benefit from economically. This theology has allowed Christians to chop down forests, pollute rivers and live consumer lifestyles that damage God’s creation.
Rulers or stewards?
To challenge these ideas, Christians have turned to the second creation account in Genesis 2. In verse 15, humans were placed in the Garden of Eden and instructed to ‘work it and take care of it’.
In other words, God has given us the responsibility to act as stewards of his creation – to care for, manage, oversee and protect all that God owns. This is an honour and a privilege.
As stewards, we need to act in the owner’s best interests, treating his property with respect. We must not use it in a way that causes harm.