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The Stewardship Tree

Leafless tree on green hill with blue sky and wispy clouds

Growing up, I loved Sabbath afternoon adventures with my grandparents. We lived in Florida and would often spend the afternoon on the beach playing in the sand, in waves, or throwing jellyfish back in the water. When we weren’t on the beach my grandpa would take us birdwatching. He was an avid birder and could identify many birds in flight with no binoculars. These are some of my earliest memories with my grandparents that I cherish to this day. 

I had a close relationship with my grandpa and liked to imitate him. As we drove around looking for birds, my grandpa would pull over to the side of the road and get out his bird guide to look them up. My grandma often brought children’s books along for my siblings and me to read between stops. One of these books was about a family of ducks. The book was full of pictures of the momma duck and all her ducklings. 

One day as my grandpa was flipping through his bird guide, he mentioned he was having a hard time finding the bird he saw. As a four-year-old, I decided I could help. I picked up the children’s book about ducks and proceeded to search through it trying to help Grandpa identify the bird he saw, which was certainly not a duck. Sure enough, after flipping through a few pages, I managed to “find” the bird and confirmed it was the species he thought it was. 

This subsequently became my bird guide. I brought it along on several bird-watching trips over the next few weeks. While I doubt that I ever correctly identified a bird with my book, those experiences with my grandparents created my lifelong passion for nature. As I grew, I learned to see lessons of God and his character throughout creation. This is still one of my favorite spiritual exercises. 

Stewardship is a pivotal principle throughout the Bible. You may have heard of the 5 Ts of stewardship. God expects us to manage His gifts wisely. The five Ts stand for these gifts: our time, talents, treasure (money), temple (body/health), and testimony (witness/reputation). Stewardship is about properly managing God’s gifts. 

The Bible is full of spiritual parallels to forces and objects in creation. Creation was God’s first revelation of himself to man. It is only because of sin that we needed a Holy Bible to tell us of the character of God, to tell us how to be stewards. 

"So be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and manage it for us. We have put the two of you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the animals that walk the earth” (Gen. 1:28 CW). Nowhere in the Bible is man relieved of this responsibility. It is reaffirmed after the Flood. 

“Everything under heaven is mine" (Job 41:11 NKJV). We own nothing. We are but stewards of God’s property. 

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God" (Luke 12:6). God intimately cares about what happens to his creatures.   

"The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants . . . for destroying those who destroy the earth" (Rev. 11:18). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary suggests this verse refers to those who destroy the earth both physically and morally. 

These are just a small sample of the verses related to creation stewardship. Creation is a gift, and it is clear how important creation care is to God. It seems we need to add one more T to the five mentioned. I propose terra, a synonym for land or earth. How do these six areas of stewardship fit together?

Imagine a tree that represents the various aspects of stewardship. The roots are time. When we set aside time to spend with God first, we build a strong rootstock for stewardship in every other area of life. The trunk represents our talents and temple. When we dedicate these to God the other aspects will flourish (see Luke 16:10). The branches are our treasures (money, property, physical possessions). The leaves and flowers are what others see most readily and represent our testimony.

But this tree needs somewhere to grow. What is the foundation of the doctrine of stewardship? This tree must be planted in the sixth T, terra, the principle of creation stewardship. We must understand that everything, from our time to our testimony, belongs to God. The earth itself and everything in it are the Lord’s (Psalm 24:1). This is the foundation principle of stewardship. God owns the whole earth and everything on and in it. The elements and minerals your body is made from, the food and air you consume, everything you own or buy, every minute of your life, God has a superseding claim on. 

But it’s so hard to live an eco-friendly life, right? Buying sustainable products is expensive! Friends, that is not what it really means to live out creation stewardship. Rather, God calls us to care for and tend the earth, not simply to buy special products. Pollution is one of the biggest problems hurting God’s land and creatures. Also, it harms the poor most severely. 

If there is only one thing everyone can do, it is to use less. Use less single-use disposables, buy fewer clothes, fewer products, and eat out less. Take a serious look at your lifestyle. Pray that God will show you how to declutter your life. Try to repair and use what you have rather than buying new. Think about new purchases for two or three days before making them. You will often find you don’t need that item, or perhaps you can get it used. This will make you a better steward of terra and treasure. You will be surprised how much money you save! You will have more money to give to the cause of the Gospel!

Pray that God will show you how to better steward his creation. Study this topic in the Bible for yourself. Most importantly, get out in creation where you can spend quality time with the Creator!

Photo by Luke Richardson on Unsplash.

David F. Garner is from Tennessee and has been a writer and youth ministry worker for over ten years. You can find youth ministry resources at his blog

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