Thursday, January 1, 2009

On Being a Thankful Steward

We greet the New Year with a contribution from a guest blogger, Jessicah Zehring, Assistant to the Director, Center for Bioethics at Cedarville University:

A new year is upon us, and as we celebrate the occasion with loved ones, we often reflect on the material, physical, and spiritual blessings of the past year with a sense of thankfulness. It is easy to feel thankful for various events and opportunities we've had in the past. But what role does an attitude of thankfulness play in our stewardship of the environment?

Being thankful for an object implies an awareness and appreciation of that object. Both Christian and secular environmentalists share an awareness of and appreciation for the natural world. Awareness that an object exists is a prerequisite to appreciating or valuing that object. In turn, our appreciation for an object deepens as we come to a greater understanding of its' role and function. Christians and non-Christians alike can appreciate the beauty and complexity of the natural world, and value the organisms that interact in our earthly environment.

But there is another component to being thankful, one not shared by many secular environmentalists. That component is an attitude of grateful esteem to the Creator of the universe. The secular environmentalist who does not acknowledge God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe and Who has a purpose for both His creation and our part in it can only view the natural world as a product of chance events. In this naturalistic view, there is no object for his or her praise and thankfulness. Although he or she can be aware of and value natural processes, he or she doesn't share a feeling of gratefulness to a creative being Who set the world in place and Who has invited mankind to exercise stewardship of it.

Christians recognize that God is the creator of the natural world. We acknowledge that the goldfinch outside our window, or the lowly Draba verna plant growing in our yard is no more a product of random chance than we ourselves. Instead, they are creatures of great value and purpose because God choose to create them for His glory and pleasure. He crafted the Earth and all the organisms in it, and appointed human beings stewards over his handiwork. David writes in Psalm 136:3-6:

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
His love endures forever.
To Him alone who does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
Who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
Who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever. (New International Version).

Here, God’s written Word and His creation together give testimony to the power and wisdom of the Designer. It is to this God that we can be thankful because He has revealed our unique role as stewards of creation. His revelation also enables us to place correct value on ourselves and on our fellow creatures. As we enter a new year, let us strive to execute our stewardship role with thankfulness, both toward the Creator and His creation.

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