To serve God and my country;
To respect authority;
To be a good steward of creation;
And to treat others as I want to be treated.
In past discussions we’ve examined various segments of the oath statement. Tonight, I’d like our Trailmen to discuss what they think it means to “be a good steward of creation“
As we’ve done in the past (looking at various scouting ideals), we typically begin by getting feedback on Trailmen’s own perspectives. We’ve heard the terms “steward” and “creation” used in many ways and various contexts — movies, conversations with parents, discussions at school or church, etc. Sometimes the “contextual” definition of a term or phrase can depart from the “book meaning”. So, once we’ve engaged our group in what they think “being a good steward of creation” is all about, we’ll ask a volunteer to read definitions aloud from a dictionary.
- Steward (as a noun) – a person employed to manage another’s property, esp. a large house or estate.
- Steward (as a verb) – manage or look after (another’s property).
- Creation – the bringing into of existence of the universe, esp. when regarded as an act of God…everything so created; the universe.
So pulling the “text book definitions” together we might translate “to be a good steward of creation” into something like “to manage or look after everything God created with care, concern and diligence.”
However, how would a Trailman or a Troop, or the whole of Trail Life USA manage all of God’s creation? I’m not sure we can take on that responsibility ourselves. Fortunately, we can “be good stewards” of those portions of creation we routinely interact with on a daily basis, and encourage others to cooperate in balancing the appropriate use of resources while protecting natural wildlife areas, etc.
A couple other questions pop into my mind (and an examination of each could become their own Troopmaster Minute):
- By who’s authority do we take on this obligation? What direction has been given by this authority (if any)?
- How do we reconcile our stewardship over a temporal (not eternal) Earth that will likely outlast our immediate generation (is there an implied call to build a multi-generational legacy of care, concern and diligence?)
- Since I’m a created being, does this phrase imply a “duty to self”?
- Since other people around me are also created beings, does this imply a “duty to others”?
Let’s take a look at each question individually.
1) By who’s authority do we take on this obligation? In Genesis 1:28, God said “God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God gave mankind dominion over creation — we are authorized to “multiply, fill the earth and subdue (govern, manage, steward) it”. Genesis 2:15 states “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”
“What direction (if any) has been provided?”
- One of the earliest tasks delegated to mankind was naming the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). God, as our creator, can specify tasks and responsibilities for us to manage on His behalf; therefore, careful study of his Word and obedience may be parts of being a good (informed, active, effective) steward.
- As a consequence of sin, the fall of man led to specific responsibilities — namely the need to work for our food (Gen 3:17-19). A good steward works diligently to provide required essentials for himself and his family.
- Matthew 25:14-30 tells us a parable of a man going on a journey who entrusts his stewards with bags of gold (talents) to invest while he is away. Two of them double their investment, but one buried his money in the ground to avoid losing it entirely. The master returns and rewards the two faithful stewards, but scolds the one who buries the money in the ground saying that he could at least have put the money in trust at the bank to earn some interest. This steward is thrown out of the h0me. I think that it is clear that we should be “thrifty” in managing resources — these resources are provided for our use and we should neither abuse them nor ignore the value they present as investments in the future.
- Similarly, in Luke 12:35-48 we are instructed, as stewards, to be prepared and vigilant — exercising our duties consistently and properly. We should obey what instructions have been given to us in response to those responsibilities that we bear. For if we prove untrustworthy, we’ll be in trouble when we’re caught being bad stewards. This scripture verse could refer to our relationship with God and our fellow man (i.e. as an employee of a company, a Trailman who is part of a patrol, etc.) A good steward is a person of integrity — doing what is right at all times, including when the master isn’t around to monitor his or her performance.
2) How do we reconcile our stewardship over a temporal (not eternal) Earth that will likely outlast our immediate generation (is there an implied call to build a multi-generational legacy of care, concern and diligence?)
- In the simplest terms, we may want to work closely with our government officials to establish reasonable rules on managing resources appropriately — to avoid abuse, waste or misuse. We do have delegated authority to manage creation and we should do so wisely, scientifically and precisely.
- In terms of establishing a legacy of solid stewardship, parents must teach their children (and teach them to be ready to teach the next generation, etc.)
- Proverbs 22:6; Deut 6:6-7; Ps 78:6-8; Ps 145:4; Lk 1:50; Eph 6:4
- We can look at the Earth as a warehouse that will run out of supplies, or a largely renewable resource that will last for a long time — either way, we can trust that God will have supplied us with what we need so long as we’re not foolish.
3) Since I’m a created being, does this phrase imply a “duty to self”?
- For me to be a good steward of what God has entrusted to me, or what other men have entrusted to me, I must be strong, healthy, intelligent and wise enough to fulfill my duties and obligations. Therefore, I have a duty to myself to live life reasonably, consistently and strive to keep a balance of self-reliance (capability) and knowing my place in the world (humble, reverent).
- 1 Cor 6:19-20; Phil 4:13; Rom 12:1-2; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Cor 6:18; Rom 14:7-8; Eph 4:28
4) Since other people around me are also created beings, does this imply a “duty to others”?
- See all of our other blog articles on “Walking Worthy” (LOL)
- Since other people are God’s creation, we have obligations and duties in our interactions with them — strangers, family, fellow Christians, et.al.
- Phil 2:4; Eph 4:32; John 13:34-35; Pr 21:13; 1 Tim 5:8; Gal 6:9-10; Mt 25:35-40; James 1:27; James 2:14-17; Lk 3:11; Mt 5:42; Rom 12:10; Mt 7:12
- As a leader, employer, manager, or other person who has delegated authority, we have special considerations as well. Ideally, in my position of authority, I’d adopt a leadership style that nurtures, builds and equips my team to fulfill their obligations well. This model is typically called “servant leadership” but other leadership models can also empower subordinates as the leader directs their shared responsibilities (i.e. “Be-Know-Do” or “Primus Inter Pares”, etc.) (and we could do a whole series of articles on this topic, too).
- Pr 16:9; Pr 16:7; 1 Tim 4:12; Heb 13:7; Heb 13:17; Titus 2:1-15; Mt 20:25-28; Pr 29:2; 1 Pet 5:2-4; Phil 2:3-8
So there’s a lot to consider (including more that we’ve not covered in this short article) when we pledge to be “good stewards of creation”. Like the stewards entrusted to behave properly while the master is away, or the stewards who had been given talents to invest, we should be prepared to act consistently and faithfully. Equipped with knowledge about what God expects of us and how we’re to behave towards other people, too. We have been given all sorts of resources to use wisely and to pass along to the next generation. Because of that responsibility we ought to instill a multi-generational legacy of learning to love God and honoring his commandments and directives to us.