The biblical call to stewardship will lead us to foster
quality of life. Total quality of life must include the health and stability
of the natural world, relative justice and peace for people, and the free
and true worship of God Almighty.
For nearly a century, Lutheran Laity Movement for
Stewardship assisted, inspired and trained congregations in important ways.
LLM ceased operations on May 31, 2003, but the
Stewardship of Life Institute is proud to continue its work by making its
web resources available to a new generation of stewards.
Responding to the Church's Call to Ecological Stewardship
By Gilson A. C. Waldkoenig
What does the gospel and the ministry of the church offer to a world
concerned about its natural environment?
Many people throughout the church - farmers, business people, parents,
pastors, workers of all sorts - are concerned about ecological issues. The
health and well-being of our planet affects everyone. What does the gospel
of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of his church, have to offer a world
concerned about its natural environment? This article shows the biblical
and theological basis for ecological stewardship.
Why not involve your congregation in caring for the earth? You may hear
the gospel in a fresh way in relationship to Godís abiding care for his
God is active in the world! Although we often overlook the fact, each
and every moment of each and every day is precisely the time and place
that God Almighty is present. God constantly engages our lives, and the
life of all creation. The Good News of Jesus Christ is that God has acted
decisively for the salvation of all: Christ obediently suffered for us,
and then God raised him triumphantly! Godís continued activity in, with
and for the sake of the world is consistent with that decisive act of
salvation in Jesus Christ.
God Loves the World
God loves the world! Even while God pursues his wonderful mission among
humankind, Godís presence and activity affect the entire world. God
created the world, according to the scriptures. That creation was not a
one-time, over-and-gone event. Godís creation of the world continues each
day. Martin Luther so often taught this, and he encouraged us to live
lives of creative responsibility that would be in harmony with Godís
continual care of his creation.
The Holy Scriptures testify to Godís creative and redemptive work in
all things. For example, Paul taught the Christians in Rome: the
creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain
the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole
creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only
creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan
inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in
hope we were saved (Romans 8:21-24a).
All people have a renewed call to the role of steward or caretaker of
Paulís faith in Christ was a mighty faith; his sense of the power of
Godís work in Christ knew no bounds. Paul saw that the work of God in
Christ would complete Godís work of creation, that redemption would be the
most creative act of all.
If Paul is correct in his vision of the implications of Christís work
(and we believe he is!), then Christians and all people have a renewed
call and renewed motivation in the role of "steward" or caretaker of
creation. This role was given to humankind when "the Lord God took the man
(Adam) and put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it." Work and
service in the world are not punishment for humankind. God gave work to
Adam as a gift in the Garden before Adam fell into sin. It was later that
"toil" was added to work, and a "curse" was extended toward the earth
because of human rebellion against God. When Christ comes and saves,
humans are restored to their rightful and joyful role of stewards, tillers
and keepers, and released from the burden of toil in their work.
When people do the work that God has given them, they join God in his
mission to care for the whole world. Meanwhile, Christ draws all believers
into the fellowship of the church, and it is through that community, too,
that Christians are empowered by God to join him in care for creation.
Another great community surrounds and often meets the church as it goes
forth in its mission. All creation is called to be a community and is
united under Godís care, as Paulís teaching indicated. Signs of the great
community of creation appear around us, even though many signs of strife
rend the intended community of creation. The leading sign of the community
of all creation is the church itself, with Christís reconciling work at
its center. From that center flows Godís care for both the natural world
In recent years most people have become more aware of the ecological
crises, the dangers that threaten the health and stability of Godís
natural world. There is much debate over the extent of this danger, and
over the degree to which we must respond with remedial action. No matter
what the extent of ecological crisis -- or even if there were no crisis at
all! -- it is clear from the biblical witness that Christians and all people
are called to be responsible stewards of the earth, as well as each other.
The biblical call to stewardship will lead us to foster quality of
life. The quality of life that is measured only by material goods and
economic factors is incomplete. Total quality of life must include the
health and stability of the natural world, relative justice and peace for
people, and the free and true worship of God Almighty. It is on this
basis, on this biblical vision, that Christians are motivated to respond
to ecological crises. It is on the basis of belief in the power of the
gospel, and confidence in its ultimate triumph, that Christians dare to do
as Christ did, to reach out in responsible love toward a world in need.
To have the opportunity "to till and keep" the earth is an arena in
which we can proclaim anew the powerful redemption of Godís work in
Christ. To care for the earth, just as to care for oneís neighbor, is an
opportunity to witness to Christ and to practice the churchís mission.
When the church and Christians are reaching out in service, they are most
alight with the radiance of Godís powerful gospel. This is why your pastor
might ask your congregation to care for creation by some specific
ecological project. It is why a seminary should include in its education
the churchís vibrant opportunity to serve Christ by tending Godís own
© Copyright 1996, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
This essay first appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of Faith
in Action. Articles in Faith in Action may be reproduced for use in ELCA
and ELCIC congregations provided each copy carries the note:
Copyright 1996, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission.
Gilson A.C. Waldkoenig is
Associate Professor of Town and Country Ministry and Church in Society at
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He is also director of the
Town and Country Church Institute at Gettysburg Seminary.