Meandering Along the River’s Edge
~by Virginia Rhys-Anson
We Are Stewards, Not Czars
God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened.
How blessed am I that God allows me the privilege of helping Him with His work? How truly blessed to be entrusted with the care of the Earth and the creatures and vegetation that God brought into existence by a single utterance of His Divine will. How blessed am I to be a steward of God’s creation.
God gave humans “dominion” over Earth and her inhabitants. Though He turned the care of nature over to us, He did not intend domination. We are called to be gentle stewards and caregivers of Earth and her creatures–the caregivers of nature.
Earth is my home. Earth is our home. The home of all of humanity. The home of all wildlife. She is our life support system. Without her, life on this planet—including human life—would cease to be.
Our Dear Creator formed our earthly home with all of the natural resources needed to sustain life. If our planet is healthy, she can provide for her plant, animal, and human inhabitants. Ironically, in order to nourish life, Earth depends on humans to conserve and protect these resources. Earth depends on humans to conserve and safeguard wildlife. Earth depends on humans to be her stewards.
The natural world was designed to sustain itself and will naturally work in harmony. Short of a cataclysmic event, a meteor colliding with Earth perhaps, humans alone have the power to upset this balance. Likewise, man has the power to maintain that balance through stewardship.
Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect.
Each creature is given dignity by Our Father, from the lowly slug to the mammoth blue whale. All creatures, human or not, are, likewise, related. All, the colossal and the miniscule, the cute and the repulsive, are created by God with a tender, fatherly love. Our lives are interwoven, each depending on others for existence. Whatever happens to one creature, one plant, one boulder has a ripple effect throughout creation.
Problems arise when humans ignore this intertwining or the feel of these ripples. Oft times, if ripple’s effect is felt, as with climate change, it is ignored. After all, humanity comprises the dominant species—the very top of the food chain. How convenient to act as if the world literally revolves around it and to lay blame on nature herself. How convenient to subjugate flora and fauna to the point of harm. Or, worse yet, to extinction.
Humans tend to see the earth as out there, as separate from themselves and their domains. If nature is viewed as a separate entity, and one that is below our status, then it is easy to see it as fair game for whatever we conger. However, if we see ourselves in our true context, as part of God’s creation, as brothers and sisters to flora and fauna, then we begin to understand our true role as stewards of God’s creation.
Earth is a gift from God, the gift of our fabulous home. God could not have gifted us with one better. Yet it is unfathomable to me that anyone would intentionally do serious harm to our precious home.
This reality cannot be overemphasized. Earth IS our home, a home that we share with all of God’s creatures. Without her, we could not live and our human species, along with every species on Earth, would become extinct. So why do we insist on allowing the destruction of our home? We do to her what we would never dream of doing to our own personal abodes and land. With the same vigilance that we employ to look after our personal homes and properties, so are we to look after our earth.
Just as we would not allow someone to dump garbage or oil or chemicals on our living room floors, we must spare Earth from the human-induced disasters that befall her. Just as we would not allow anyone to cut down all of the trees in our yards and dig up our gardens, we must ensure that our forests are not stripped. Just as we would not allow others to feed our children pesticides or toxic waste, we must be diligent that Earth’s land and waterways are not thusly infected. We are, after all, stewards of our collective home and her creatures and vegetation.
As creation stewards, it is our divinely given mission to shield God’s creation from the felling of large chunks of forest, from the dumping of garbage in our oceans and waterways, from the hunting and displacement of animal species to near or total extinction. It is our calling to gently nurture the wildlife that visits our yards. Well, actually, their land that we have inhabited. It follows that it is our duty to help each species, as much as possible, to live its naturally instinctive life.
Yes, God gave humans special status among His creatures. However, although we are charged with dominion over nature, it does not follow that we are separate beings living side-by-side with nature. We are part of nature, living within and among it.
Creation, likewise, includes our fellow human beings. As St. Francis of Assisi so passionately exemplified, there is an inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, and commitment to society. What we do to Earth and her creatures, we do to ourselves and to all of humanity. It is the ripple effect.
The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together…the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet.
Disease ravages the poor of the third world. Lack of safe drinking water causes illness and death. Lack of sufficient food causes malnutrition and death among infants and children. Due to selfish domination by more affluent, apathetic segments of human society, the least privileged populations of our human family are suffering fates similar to those of our wildlife brethren. This is unconscionable. What we do to Earth, we do to ourselves.
We human beings are not the czars of creation. Though we do possess the power, nature is not ours to manipulate as we so choose in order to satisfy our misguided desires and greed. Animals and insects are not ours to mistreat and kill just because we can, just because we wish to serve our self-seeking whims, just because we presume to be the superior humans and they the inferior species. No. We are not czars.
Human beings are the stewards, the caregivers of God’s creation. We are to treat nature, wildlife, and plant life gently, caring lovingly for their every need.
Good stewards do not mistreat, manipulate, or mutilate. Good stewards watch over, protect, and nurture creation so that Earth can care for and provide for all of us.
How blessed is humanity? We have been given an awesome privilege–and an
awesome responsibility. Our infinitely powerful Creator, Who could accomplish all of this solo, has allowed us to share in His work—to minister to Earth and her creatures. He has entrusted us with a monumental task. Yet not merely for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and on to every generation after us. What legacy are we leaving for them? Let’s not muck this up.
All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
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