The Meaning of Stewardship

I came very close to losing my cool today with an Evangelical Christian. It wasn’t about politics, or abortion, or gun control, which has become a political trigger topic, pardon the pun. It was over something simple, but simple things are often the most profound.

I was having a cord of wood delivered at my house. I live in a rural area, this winter has been cold, and my wood pile had slowly dwindled away. The man delivering the wood and I chatted amiably about nothing in particular while he offloaded the wood, but we eventually turned to the topic of weather and how it has become both more extreme and less predictable. And then he said it.

“Well, it is the End of Days,” he said, followed almost immediately by, “Trust in the Lord and He will provide.”

When I heard those words, something in me came very close to snapping. I didn’t, thank goodness, but I turned a “hard” look at him and replied, “The Lord helps those who tend to their own responsibilities.”

This was definitely not the reply he was expecting, nor was what followed.

“The greatest lie ever told is that we were kicked out of Eden. We weren’t. This,” and I spread my arms wide, motioning at the hills and trees around us, “this is our garden, given to us to care for and nurture, and we have fucked it up.”

Now the poor man really looked confused, but he had hit one of my trigger points, and I was on a roll.

“We were given the job of stewardship. We were charged with caring for this garden and everything in it. Stewardship doesn’t mean stripping things bare until nothing remains. It doesn’t mean fouling the waters and the air in Paradise with filth and noxious fumes. Stewardship is about care, it’s about nurturing, it’s about maintaining and improving upon what was gifted to us. And we have failed in that task. Oh, yes,” I said, “things are going to get much worse, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.”

At this point the poor man knew he was outclassed and outgunned, so he made a hasty retreat, wishing me a good day, and probably thinking I was some kind of lunatic. And I can’t say that I blame him.

The real irony of this vignette is that I’m not religious. I’m a Scientist, a staunch adherent to the scientific method in all things, and dedicated to questioning everything, including and especially religion. That said, I’m not an atheist. I have seen and experienced things that cannot be defined or quantified within the confines of Science. I accept the contradiction of science and spirit as a part of the human condition, and as something I will neither solve nor resolve satisfactorily for myself or for anyone else. I accept that a spiritual path is an important part of life for many people. Moreover, I believe strongly that the relationship between a person and his or her higher power is sacred, and none of my business.

Even so, few things get me more riled than supposedly devout Christians who assume that just because they have accepted Jesus, they no longer have to be responsible for their actions.

And I meant what I said to that poor, confused man. I’ve read the Bible, Old Testament and New, and I like a lot of what Jesus supposedly said and did. But this notion that we as humans can walk the Earth, destroying everything we touch, and still assume that we will automatically get a free pass into some mythical Paradise is more than I can swallow. Having dominion over the Earth is not the same thing as having permission to lay waste to it.

Merriam-Webster defines dominion as having supreme authority or absolute ownership. The definition of stewardship is “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” The two are not mutually exclusive. Rather, the two should go hand-in-hand, for who but a fool destroys his possessions?

Since we humans have done such a horrible job of caring for that over which we have dominion, that pretty much proves that whatever that apple really was, it didn’t teach us the real difference between Good and Evil. If it had, things would be a lot different here in the Garden we call Earth.

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