Lives on Loan:
The Importance of Christian Stewardship
Living faithfully in an age of efficiency...
by Matthew Steven Bracey
The 21st Century: Age of Efficiency
Many describe the 21st century as “busy.” There are emails to check, bills to pay, kids to feed, grass to cut, work to finish, and the list goes on. As a result, most view efficiency as a good thing. And indeed it is! We appreciate people who arrive at meetings on time and avoid unnecessary waste.
Yet the term efficiency has been defined in numerous ways. Some define it as an effort to achieve the greatest degree of productivity with the least expense—economic efficiency. Others describe it as an effort to be punctual, time conscious, and organized—time efficiency. Still others describe efficiency as an effort to conserve natural resources—environmental efficiency.
At its most basic, however, efficiency is a subjective value judgment. For example, Steve may believe it to be more economically efficient to rent a movie for his kids from a kiosk because it is cheaper. On the other hand, Tom may believe it more efficient to rent the same movie from a storefront location near his home. He reasons that the higher price is worth the value of human interaction and convenience.
As this illustration demonstrates, efficiency is not an absolute but a subjective measure of the effectiveness of a decision or lifestyle.
Environmentalism and the Christian Worldview: Can the Two Co-exist?
The measure of efficiency is often applied to the environment. Constant media exhortations to recycle or to “Go Green” illustrate a growing concern about environmental efficiency. However, because modern environmental movements are often politically motivated, many Christians dismiss these exhortations or view them with grave suspicion.
Yet it is logical fallacy to attack environmental exhortations just because someone with differing moral or political ideology promotes it. After all, Genesis 1:26-28 makes it clear that God requires good stewardship of the environment.
Couched within this passage is a command for mankind to exercise good stewardship over the created order. With this in mind, it is crucial for Christians to develop a healthy environmentalism consistent with a Christian worldview. In his 1970 book, Pollution and the Death of Man, Francis Schaeffer writes that “nature is not our own. It belongs to God, and we are to exercise our dominion over these things, not as though entitled to exploit them, but as things borrowed or held in trust. We are to use them realizing they are not ours intrinsically. Man’s dominion is under God’s dominion.”
Pastor, professor, and theologian Russell D. Moore recently stated it this way when commenting on the Deep Horizon Gulf oil spill: 
God cares about the Creation . . . He displays himself in nature, and so the more that people are distanced from the Creation itself and the more people become accustomed to treating the Creation as something that is disposable, the more distanced they are from understanding who God is . . . People are designed to be dependent on Creation and upon the natural resources around us . . . In order to love future generations, in order to love cultures, we have to love the ecosystems that support those things . . . I think it’s good for evangelical Christians to be pulled in multiple directions, if being pulled in directions means that we’re thinking through issues from a biblical point of view, rather than from a purely political point of view.
Advocates of ardent environmentalism are reminded that love of the created order does not equate with worship of the created order. They are not the same and should not be confused. Christians can (and should) be involved in environmental efficiency without compromising their faith. And environmental awareness is on the rise within the Christian community.
A recent Southern Baptist statement provides evidence of this growing awareness. The Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change includes four assertions: 1) Humans must care for creation and take responsibility for our contributions to environmental degradation; 2) It is prudent to address global climate change; 3) Christian moral convictions and Southern Baptist doctrines demand environmental stewardship; and 4) It is time for individuals, churches, communities and governments to act.
In light of God’s mandate to care for creation, shouldn’t the Christian community be the model of environmental stewardship? Shouldn’t we embrace a lifestyle of environmental efficiency through the multitude of “green” options?
Consider the following lifestyle changes that can have a dramatic impact on the environment. Request electronic publications (such as online journals, magazines, and newspapers) rather than allowing stacks of paper to grow on your shelves. Consider recycling, carpooling, and using energy saving devices. Drive smaller vehicles and use less hot water. Remember your grandmother’s advice and turn off lights when you leave the room. Unplug small appliances when not in use. Turn your thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter. Most important, teach your children to respect the planet—the home—that God placed in our care.
Christians should care for the environment, first and foremost, because God made us stewards over it. Beyond that, Christians should conserve it for the sake of their witness to a fallen world and for future generations. True, environmental efficiency is desirable only as long as it does not conflict with the Christian worldview. At the same time, it is consistent with Scripture and the biblical call to stewardship.
About the Writer: Matthew S. Bracey graduated from Free Will Baptist Bible College in 2008. He will graduate from the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, AL, in 2011, and complete the M.Div. in Theology at Beeson School of Divinity in 2012. This article was adapted from an essay by the same title published on www.helwyssocietyforum.com.
Additional Reading on Christian Ecology and Environmentalism:
Land, Richard. The Earth is the Lord’s: Christians and the Environment. Nashville, Tennessee:
The Broadman Press, 1992.