Monday, March 4, 2013

"Stewardship and the Environment"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 10: "Stewardship and the Environment"
Since Seventh-day Adventists believe that the earth will be made completely new at the end of the millennium, why should we worry about "keeping" this sin-plagued garden? That was the job given to Adam when God created the earth. Today secular humanism tells us that if we all work together we can save all the endangered animals, prevent global warming, and achieve world peace. "Just give peace a chance," they sing. That would be wonderful, but only an individual change of heart because of an appreciation of the sacrifice of Christ, possible only by the working of the Holy Spirit, will produce a perfect world of peace. As long as people refuse that, they will continue to act in their own interests and will ignore the rights of others.
"Meeting human needs" must be the guiding principle of stewardship. Being good stewards means much more than paying tithes and offerings. First and foremost, it means yielding to the Holy Spirit who changes your heart to reflect that self-emptying love, agape. Without that, we cannot have the Spirit-guided empathy necessary to discern true need and proper management of earthly resources in order to meet human needs.
At creation, Adam was given dominion over all creatures. Power always comes with responsibility. For a time Adam accepted and fulfilled that responsibility, but when he placed his love of Eve above God, he abdicated his position and lost the power to fully carry out the responsibility. Before sin he was to cultivate and keep his dominion, but after sin the ground was cursed and much greater effort was required. In fact, they were to labor for the great majority of their time, but God preserved the blessing of the Sabbath rest on the seventh day of the week. They were to appreciate the attributes of God as revealed by His creation and were given rest from their labors on that day.
Instead of entering into that rest, Adam's descendants began to act as if God did not exist, and there was no need to remember Him as the creator. By the time Israel came to Sinai, God had to tell them to remember the Sabbath, which had apparently been forgotten. God wanted Israel to demonstrate to the world how He could save a group of people, but they needed to spend a full 24 hours each week appreciating God's creative power as revealed in His creation. God wants His children to remember they are His, not their own creation. Only then can we rest in His promises to create us anew.
But Israel did everything but rest in His promises, and we need to learn from their experience. "The rest that was offered to the children of Israel in the desert, is the very same rest that Christ offers to all mankind, rest in God, in the everlasting arms,--for the only begotten Son 'is in the bosom of the Father.' John 1:19. ... But God always was and is everywhere present; why then do not all people have rest?--For the simple reason that as a general thing men do not recognize His presence, nor even His existence. Instead of taking God into account in all the affairs of life, most people live as though He did not exist. ... It is as Creator that God reveals Himself, for the fact that He creates marks Him as the self-existent God, and distinguishes Him from all false gods. ... Now since rest is found only in God's presence, and His presence is truly known and appreciated only through His works, it is evident that the promised rest must be very closely connected with creation" (E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 283-284). [1]
The meek, gentle, and humble will inherit the earth. Using Israel as a type of the redeemed, God was about to give the land of Canaan to Israel when Moses told them: "for you have not as yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you" (Deut. 12:9, NASB).
"The rest and the inheritance are inseparable. In Christ, who is 'God with us,' we find rest, 'in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him that worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.' ... 'The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.' Ps. 16:5. He is both our rest and our inheritance; having Him, we have all" (op. cit., p. 285). The meek humbly accept that only in Christ will they enter into rest and the promised inheritance.
Once they entered into the land and God gave them rest, which was always tenuous because of unbelief, Moses reminded Israel of their stewardship responsibility to bring offerings and tithes to the Lord (Deut. 12:11). The land was good, and they prospered from it. There may have been individuals who did not return anything to the Lord but He makes His sun to shine on all. Only in the judgment will the differences in heart be made known. Good stewards receive God's blessings on this earth and the earth to come. Stewardship, like entering into the Sabbath rest, is not forced by God, it is voluntary.
If appreciating the things that God created reveals Him to us, we should use the Sabbath hours to worship Him the Creator. The more we pollute and mismanage this earth and its resources, the less we can develop a proper appreciation of God as a loving and generous Creator.
There is also a spiritual stewardship responsibility given to those who understand the Gospel. If we use the specially blessed Sabbath hours to appreciate God's creation and the plan to redeem both mankind and the earth from the curses that sin brought, we are entering into rest from works-oriented religion and constant self-centered fear of being inadequate and unsafe to save. This message given to our church in 1888, gives a special peace to those who know and love it. They will become aware of their responsibility to be good stewards of it, and will join Israel in their responsibility to proclaim it "to the uttermost parts of the earth." "That God's design for Israel was that they should proclaim the Gospel to all the world, is seen in the fact that if they abode in His covenant they were to be a kingdom of priests" (op. cit., p. 272).
But the 1888 message has also taught us that a higher motivation becomes realized in the close of time than has prevailed in the church in past ages--a concern for Christ that He receive His reward and find His "rest" in the final eradication of sin. All egocentric motivation based merely on fear of hell or hope of reward is less effective. The higher motivation is symbolized in the climax of Scripture--the Bride of Christ making herself "ready." [2]
--Arlene Hill
[1] To read the entire chapter in The Everlasting Covenant, "The Promises to Israel: The Promised Rest (Part 1)," please go to the Website:
[2] From Ten Great Gospel Truths that Make the 1888 Message Unique, pp. 27-29.
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to