Thursday, March 07, 2013

“Stewardship and the Environment”

Insights #10 Mar. 9, 2013

First Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Stewardship and  the Environment”
For the week of Mar. 9, 2013
Stewardship and the Environment
The heavens [are] thine, the earth also [is] thine: [as for] the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them. Psalms 89:11
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.”Isaiah 51:6.
I have what some would consider an old car - a 1997 Volvo 960 with well over 200,000 miles. Why do I still have this car? First of all, it was fairly well designed, and I feel better about the safety of my son who drives like a 21 year-old. Secondly, I read that the best return on the investment for a car is in the “run-out” of the later years of its usefulness.
But this creates a dilemma. Perhaps you have faced it as well. When does further investment in repair and maintenance become of less value than getting a new car. Should I pay $1000 for a new rack and pinion or send it off to the junkyard? Can I get another 100,000 miles or more out of this car?
We face a somewhat similar dilemma when we consider our responsibility to our own bodies, the people and creatures around us, and the wider environment of this earth.
God created the world, and we are responsible for exercising the best “dominion” we can under the circumstances that Adam left us. But we also realize that what we see around us is getting old and will pass away in the near future. 
The Sabbath reminds us of God’s creative, sustaining and recreative power and provides us perspective when we wrestle with these issues. It should also direct us to Isaiah 58, where practical stewardship is outlined.
According to Isaiah 51:8, only the salvation and righteousness of God will last forever, so our efforts to improve our surroundings and protect the environment should always be in the context of this overarching truth. But we should be eager to improve and correct whatever will tend toward the salvation of ourselves and others.
We can focus our efforts best the closest to ourselves. Our health is significantly affected by what we eat and how we live. Science is today validating the health reform truths gifted to us 150 years ago. God’s purpose in our salvation is our healing, our health. The word sozo in the Greek is used in both Luke 8:48 (“Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”) and in Matthew 1:21 (“you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” ).
Improving the health and immediate environment of those less fortunate than ourselves involves the proper distribution of the gifts God has given us:
[Is] not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
[Is it] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Isaiah 58:6-8.
Environmental activism apart from the salvation/redemption context of the Great Controversy is prone to pander to pride and arrogance, and thus often ends up in the hands of the self-styled “ruler of this world,” whose purpose is to remove freedom and hasten the destruction of the world. This activism usually involves forcing other people to behave in ways that the “experts” believe will best save humanity and the planet, in the spirit and tenor of the builders of the Tower of Babel.
This is not to say we should not all be environmentally responsible, but that we should start as close to home as possible, respecting the freewill of others, recognizing forces are at play much bigger than all of humanity can collectively influence, keeping in mind the only things that will survive as the world self-destructs - the righteousness and salvation of God.
The work specified in these words [Isaiah 58] is the work God requires His people to do. It is a work of God's own appointment. With the work of advocating the commandments of God and repairing the breach that has been made in the law of God, we are to mingle compassion for suffering humanity. We are to show supreme love to God; we are to exalt His memorial, which has been trodden down by unholy feet; and with this we are to manifest mercy, benevolence, and the tenderest pity for the fallen race. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." As a people we must take hold of this work. Love revealed for suffering humanity gives significance and power to the truth.--Special Testimonies, series A, no. 10, pp. 3, 4.
-Todd Guthrie