Stewardship vs. Dominion
When God created this universe and our home planet Earth, He gave man dominion over it [Genesis 1:26-28]. That is the translation of both the KJV and RSV versions. The NIV and The Message give a slightly different slant: NIV translates it “may rule over” and the Message says “be responsible for.” God gave man the responsibility for the Earth and all its creatures and plants. We have not taken this responsibility seriously. In our rush to profit from the earth’s resources, we have left behind poisoned, uninhabitable lands, and impoverished populations. Some humans have taken what they’ve wanted and left the local populations to deal with—as best they can—the ruined land. We took dominion to be a carte blanch: we can do whatever we want and forget the consequences of our actions. We have not taken our responsibility seriously, so that we could profit from it.
It is so different with the native peoples of this earth. They have lived in reciprocity with the land and all its resources and its plants and animals. They have worked to give back to the plants and animals that sustain them what they have given to the native peoples. They have taken care of their resources. They have practiced stewardship, not dominion.
By ignoring the wisdom of the native peoples of this land whose land we usurped, we are now reaping what we so successfully sowed: global warming which seemed like a far-off result of our total dependence on fossil fuels and their damage to the whole earth has shown its face so well in this past year with the fires, the floods, the fiercer storms, and the rising seas and temperatures. There are many verses in the Bible about reaping and sowing, but here is one on stewardship from Galatians 6:8: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Here is Jesus with another teaching about stewardship: Jesus’s Parable of the Bags of Gold [Matthew 25:14-29]. A man was going on a journey and entrusted his wealth to his servants. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags and, to the last servant, one bag. When the man returned, he found that the one with five bags gained five more. The man with two bags had gained two more bags of gold. But the one given one bag had been afraid of his master, so he buried his bag of gold in the ground.
The man congratulated the first two servants, giving them even more responsibility. But the one who had hidden his bag of gold received only his master’s anger: “You wicked lazy servant!… you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” We are responsible for what God has given us. May we work to increase it. That is stewardship, being responsible for what God gives us, being faithful to what God asks of us, multiplying the benefits for everyone, not hoarding it for ourselves.
Perhaps Titus 1:7 puts it most succinctly: “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.” To oversee this earth and all that we have been given means to take care of the earth as best we can, to not use it for our own gain, but for the gain of all the inhabitants—all the plants and animals and people who live here and who are to benefit from our stewardship. Reciprocity with God, with all that we have been given that feeds and nourishes us is the name of the game. We are beholden to God for all that He has created to sustain us and all other inhabitants of this earth, and so we take good care of it—our family, our neighbors, our purpose– all because we love our Lord and our Creator. And we love all that He has created, too.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I good steward of what the Lord has giving me—my family, my work, my purpose, and all my neighbors? What does being a steward of all that God has entrusted to me mean to me? How could I improve my participation in all His creation?
Blessing for the week: May we be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. May we share all that we are with everyone and with the earth.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.
 See books like “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer and “Restoring the Kinship Worldview: Indigenous Voices Introduce 28 Precepts for Rebalancing Life on Planet Earth by Wahinkpe Topa(Four Arrows) and Darcia Narvaez, PhD.