As an evangelical university graduate in 1979, my favorite album was Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming, and my favourite song was Man Gave Names to All the Animals. Behind the simplistic lyrics and nursery-rhyme melody lurks layers of hidden meaning that even Bob Dylan was reluctant to divulge.
“He saw an animal up on a hill, Chewing up so much grass until she was filled. He saw milk comin’ out but he didn’t know how. Ah, think I’ll call it a cow.” Deep down, I just wanted to believe that Bob Dylan had experienced a spiritual pilgrimage which brought him to understand our place as stewards of the Creator’s good gift.
The biblical motif of stewardship, or stewarding God’s creation, comes from the very source of the creation story in Genesis 2:15. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.” The Hebrew word ABAD is translated ‘to work’ or ‘to serve’. The Genesis narrative speaks
of our service to the garden: caring for it, cultivating it, naming the animals, exercising dominion over it.
But this is only part of the picture. Our little garden behind our house also serves us – with vegetables and flavourful herbs, with beauty, nutrients for the soil, as a bird sanctuary and provider of shade. Biospheres and ecosystems serve an even greater good: feeding the nations, purifying water, creating oxygen, preventing soil erosion, moderating climates.
Hence, a more accurate, biblical image is of reciprocal service, conservancy, conservation. The garden serves our needs. We serve the garden’s needs, and in so doing, we mutually fulfill God’s design (or economy) and show our love to God and His good gift.
From coast to coast across our land, we see Baptists living
out this principle. From Vancouver, where Rev. Jeremy Bell, the outgoing (in more ways than one!) Executive Minister of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, is also the Chair of one of Canada’s foremost conservation agencies, A Rocha. To Deer Island, in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, where Dr. Lois Mitchell and her husband Dale are demonstrating the principles
of conservancy in their fishing business.
At CBM, we celebrate everything people in our churches are doing – big and small – to conserve creation, God’s gift for us. And we long, with the Apostle Paul, “that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21)
CBM Executive Director