This transcript:

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As I record this, it is a little after 3 o'clock here.

Now I am decidedly a night owl, but that is not actually the reason that I am awake tonight.

I am awake tonight because I had to go down to the barn to deal with a pest.

But before I get to that pest, the reason that I was checking my camera, which I have a camera in the chicken coop for, well, obvious reasons.

But the reason that I was checking it specifically tonight is that last night a raccoon managed to get into the coop and killed one of my chickens.

And so of course I took some countermeasures and improved some things and buttoned things up a little more tightly.

But I also decided to stay up and watch the camera a bit just in case the raccoon attempted to make another entrance.

This particular raccoon seems to come around at about 2 o'clock, so I assume the raccoon is not going to show up tonight.

Did not show up earlier.

However, when I checked the camera, there was a skunk in the chicken coop.

And so I went down there to deal with that skunk.

Now it's most likely one of the, I believe there are two, or were, would be more accurate now, two skunks in my garden and I had no problem with them living there.

I've even given them food and some water.

However, at least one of them has decided that he wants to spend some time looking for things to eat in the chicken coop.

And of course that's not ideal because he could eat eggs or he could harass or even harm the chickens.

And so, not so long story short, I went down there and killed that skunk.

The reason that I did that, of course, is to protect the chickens.

And that is the topic that I want to discuss in this episode.

And that topic is stewardship.

What is the scope of man's stewardship of creation?

What does it mean to be a steward?

And so I would like to start off with two examples.

One, I really gave already, taking care of one's pets.

In this case, chickens are more livestock than pets, but nonetheless it's the same sort of concept.

When you acquire a pet or an animal of any kind, you have duties that come along with that.

You have to feed the animal, you have to water the animal, provide a warm place to sleep when it is cold, provide somewhere to get out of the heat when it is hot, etc.

We know what these requirements are, what these duties are that one undertakes in acquiring a pet or some other animal.

And then the other example is indeed stewardship, even though many people don't necessarily think of it as such, at least not immediately.

And that would be the plant life on your property, when you garden, when you do your landscaping.

You are engaging in stewardship of creation.

You are choosing between things.

You are selecting the plants you want, you are removing the plants you do not.

And that of course is really the distinction between a weed and a plant.

A weed is something we do not want, a plant is something that we do.

We may be more specific with regard to plants, calling them a crop or landscaping, whatever it may be.

But that is still stewardship.

And so we have these two clear types of stewardship.

And of course, if you think of the Genesis narrative, man is placed in creation as God's representative, as it were.

That is part of what it means to be the image of God.

Now I'm not getting into that deeply in this episode because that's not the central topic, but man is steward of creation.

In the scriptural narrative, there is actually no limitation placed on that stewardship.

Now some will argue that stewardship extends to everything except to other men.

But of course we know that is not the case.

For instance, if you owned slaves, you would have stewardship of those slaves.

You would have duties with regard to those slaves.

But perhaps a better example, because this one exists in almost everyone's life, children.

You are steward of your children.

Now to a different and lesser degree, you are also steward of the children in your family, even if they are not directly your children.

So for instance, your nieces and nephews or your grandsons and granddaughters, you still have duties with regard to those children.

You are still a steward in a sense with regard to those children.

And so really you can see that this scales directly up all the way to man.

So it scales up from the dirt all the way up to man, who is of course of the earth, of the dirt, of the dust.

But God gave man stewardship of all of creation.

You can try to find a restriction on that stewardship in scripture, and you will not find it because it is not there.

Insofar as restrictions on man's stewardship of creation are concerned, the only ones that actually exist are the general restrictions on man's behavior.

And so that would be the Ten Commandments.

You are not permitted to murder in pursuit of your duties as a steward.

You would be violating your duties as a steward, in fact.

But man does have stewardship of the soil, of the plants, of the animals, of his fellow man.

And we see that on a grander scale, perhaps, in the kingdom of the left hand, because those who are in positions of authority, the leaders of a nation, they have stewardship over those men God has placed under them.

And of course that is simply a larger scale of the fundamental unit of stewardship when it comes to man.

That fundamental unit of stewardship would be the family.

The father is steward of his household.

He is steward of his wife.

He is steward of his children.

He is steward of his pets, his land, etc.

That stewardship is not limited with regard to being of just the plants or of just the animals.

Again, it includes the people in his household.

Man is steward of creation, and creation most certainly includes man.

But what does it mean to be a steward?

I already mentioned that being a steward comes with certain duties.

And just to be clear, when I am speaking of what we owe, as it were, to animals, I am not speaking of animal rights, so-called.

Animals do not have rights.

Man has duties with regard to the animals entrusted to his care.

So calling them rights is looking at it in the wrong way.

It's not that the animals make demands upon man.

It is that God has placed demands on man with regard to the things God has entrusted to man's care, in this case, animals.

But stewardship fundamentally is a fiduciary relationship.

Now for those who are perhaps not familiar with that term, a fiduciary relationship is fundamentally a relationship of trust.

And it is a relationship of trust in which one party acts on behalf of and in the interest of another party.

And so you have the trustee, the one acting in the interest of the beneficiary, being the other party.

That fundamentally is what stewardship is.

Now you may be wondering, well, if man is the trustee, who is the beneficiary?

And the answer to that, of course, is future generations, fundamentally.

Yes, other living men as well, but fundamentally, future generations are those for whom we hold everything in trust.

And that is a key point.

Everything we hold, everything we have, everything of which we are stewards, ultimately, we hold in trust.

It was given us by God to take care of it and to pass it on to future generations.

And so we are not entitled, for instance, to destroy the principle as it were.

A good example would be the natural environment.

We are not free to simply pollute it however much we wish.

That would be a violation of our stewardship.

That would be inappropriate.

That would be sin, in fact.

Similarly, if we fail to care for the natural world, because that is part of our duty as a steward, but if we fail to exercise that duty of care, then we are guilty at least of sloth.

And again, we are guilty of sin.

We are failing to uphold our duties as stewards.

And we see this readily when it comes to the natural world.

We have so many invasive species running amok, and we're doing an insufficient amount to address that problem.

As part of our stewardship, we should be doing something about it.

The same with regard to animals.

However, it also holds for humans.

When we have a garden, we have plants that we want.

We have plants that we do not want.

And so if you're growing lettuce, you don't want weeds in your lettuce bed.

You may want some other plants that you co-planted with the lettuce to keep away pests, or maybe it's clover to help with nitrogen fixation.

Whatever it happens to be.

But there are going to be things you do want, and things you do not want.

And if you are being a good steward of your lettuce patch, then you are going to protect the things that should be there, and remove the things that should not be there.

That is exactly what I did with regard to that skunk and my chickens.

The chickens are supposed to be in the coop at night.

The skunk is not.

And so the skunk did receive two warnings previously, and third strike you're out as it were.

We recognize this stewardship when it comes to plants, even if initially some will not recognize it as stewardship.

That term will not pop into their minds.

But when it is explained, it is readily understood that what you are doing when you garden, landscape, etc., you are engaging in stewardship of the natural world.

The same is true when you are raising livestock, training your pet, whatever it happens to be.

When you are dealing with animals in a proper way, you are a steward of those natural resources, really, if we want to use the more expansive sense of that term.

But the part where modern thinkers, and in particular modern Christians, fall flat is failing to recognize that man also has duties with regard to the stewardship of man himself, of mankind.

Now we do recognize some of these, of course, because we recognize that at least as Christians, certainly, you must train up your child in the faith.

You must instruct your child in the basics of the faith and in more complicated matters as he is capable.

If your children are old enough to have done so, and you have not had them memorize the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, and quite frankly, they should know some other things as well, but at least those core bits, if they do not know those, you have failed thus far in your duty as a steward of your children in this case.

Now that is the duty of the father, the father of the household.

Of course he has other duties as well, because he has duties to train his wife properly, and if you have household servants, you also have a duty with regard to them.

That's less of a thing today, although still present in some places, particularly some cultures outside the Western context.

Although one could argue that employees fall into that role in some cases, but that is made significantly more complicated by existing law.

We'll leave that aside.

That's a topic for another day.

But I think the more interesting question and the more interesting thought, the more interesting sub-part of this topic, as it were, is what should man be doing as a steward of his fellow man on the grander scale, as it were, in the political realm, really, is what I mean, in the kingdom of the left hand.

And the answer to that is, we should certainly be doing something, and not what we're currently doing, because what we are currently doing is harmful, most certainly.

A proper government, a proper sovereign, a proper prince, in this case, I mean prince in the generic sense of political ruler, not necessarily exactly a prince, but one who is fulfilling that role properly is going to seek to preserve the quality of the national stock that was entrusted to his care by God.

Because of course scripture is clear, rulers are given their power by God.

They derive that power from God.

If they abuse that power, of course, then they no longer hold it rightly, and that again is a topic for another day.

But we do not see modern leaders, at least in the western context, there are some few exceptions in some parts of the world, but we do not see modern leaders doing what they are supposed to do with regard to the nations entrusted to their care.

If you destroy the nation that God has entrusted to your care, then you are not acting as a rightful sovereign, you are not acting as a good steward.

In fact, you are acting malevolently, you are acting maliciously, you are acting sinfully, and you of course, if you are that prince, that leader, you will answer to God for what you failed to do, and also for what you did that you should not have done.

And so that really is the central point that I wanted to raise with this episode, that the stewardship of creation that was entrusted to man by God does not have restrictions with regard to its scope.

Scripture does not speak of those restrictions, except again insofar as there are things that are impermissible, so you may not murder, you may not commit adultery, various things that are very clearly delineated in scripture as part of the moral law.

You may not transgress that in pursuit of your stewardship, and in fact, if you are transgressing that, again, you would not be pursuing your stewardship.

But we fail to recognize that in the modern context, and many Christians would argue vehemently against it, because if you tell someone, if you tell a Christian, well, we have stewardship over the plants, he will say, of course.

If you say we have stewardship over the animals, he will say, of course.

If you say we have stewardship over our fellow man, he will not say, of course.

Now he may very well agree, and I would certainly hope that he would agree, that man has stewardship with regard to his own children, but you are going to have trouble arguing with most modern men that man, that a leader, that a prince, has stewardship over the people entrusted to his care, and that that stewardship is akin to the sort of stewardship that man has over the plants and the animals, because the stewardship, again, is of all of creation, and man is part of creation.

This is something that we cannot simply neglect, because if we simply neglect it, then we are faithless stewards.

Now of course, probably no one listening to this has been entrusted with the sort of power of which I am now speaking.

However, as Christians, most certainly, it is incumbent on us not to speak falsely about what God has said in Scripture, or about the role of man in creation, and so I would contend that we have to, in order to fulfill that, speak truthfully about the scope of man's stewardship, and that includes the dirt, the plants, the animals, and the people, because man's stewardship of creation is of creation, not just some small part of creation, not of this little corner over here, or this bit here, or these things accepted.

That is not what God said.

That is not the nature of man.

Man named all of the animals.

That was an exercise of dominion.

Well, man also named his wife.

Now if you are married, you most likely did not name your wife, but that is because her father rightly named her, because that is an exercise of dominion by the father.

Of course, you name your own children, because again, that is an exercise of dominion.

The scope of stewardship includes mankind.

That is the fundamental point that I wish to make with this episode, and I think that it is abundantly clear that that is the case.

I do not see any way that one could argue that man is not included in the scope of man's stewardship of creation, because it seems like that would be a failure to recognize the set.

And by that I mean that if man is given stewardship of creation, and man is part of creation, then man is necessarily also given stewardship of man.

That just follows.

And so in order to argue that man does not have stewardship of man, you have to reject one of those two points, because the conclusion necessarily follows from those premises if you agree with them, if they are true.

You can disagree with them if they are true.

It still flows necessarily.

And so I would ask anyone who says that man does not have stewardship of man, which one of those he rejects?

Does he reject that man was given stewardship of creation, or does he reject that man is part of creation?

I think scripture is very clear on this.

I think the answer is that very clearly, man is part of creation, man was given stewardship of creation.

And as a more practical matter, perhaps a more practical argument, a tree is known by its fruits.

And I would say that we are living at the tail end of a number of decades of society generally believing that man does not have stewardship of his fellow man, in the sense that I mean in this episode, in the sense that I am using it.

And I highly doubt that anyone would be able to mount a serious, compelling argument, moral argument, that what we have today as a result of that sort of belief, of that sort of mindset, of that change in the way we govern, that change in the way that we run our societies, I do not think that anyone could seriously argue that the outcome has been good, that the results have been beneficial, that we are better off than those who lived in prior eras when man exercised a more vigorous and a more active stewardship of his fellow man.

And this is also a fundamental issue.

This is one of those matters that if it is not addressed, then it really does not matter what else we fix, what else we get right, because all of it will fall apart if this issue is not addressed.

Because it does not matter how grand the institution, how impressive the edifice, how great the structure you build is, if you entrust it to those who are incapable of maintaining it.

The same holds for civilizations.

If a nation does not maintain the quality of its national stock, if the people are not properly stewarded, ultimately the result will be catastrophe, because the result will be complete collapse.

Those things that were constructed in a bygone era by a more capable people and have now been entrusted in our era, in this present era, or perhaps in some future era, to a less capable people, those things will not stand the test of time, because those less capable people will not be able to maintain them.

And so my fundamental contention, and my conclusion as it were, is that a faithful prince, a faithful ruler must steward the human resources that have been entrusted to his care, the national resources in the fullest sense of nation and national that have been entrusted to his care, in the same sort of way as one would care for his garden or for his livestock.

Yes, with the restrictions already mentioned with regard to the moral law, there are certain things that a leader may not do with regard to people, with regard to men, that you are permitted to do with regard to your livestock or your plants.

However, simply because some of the methods are permissible in one place and not in another does not mean that the nature of the stewardship is different.

Not different in kind, perhaps different in degree, insofar as the means are concerned.

The same sort of ends, however, are being pursued top to bottom with regard to stewardship, because again, it is preservation and enhancement, if possible, of that principle.

That is the duty, the core duty of the fiduciary, of the trustee, with regard to the beneficiaries.

In this case, in the case of the prince, in the case of the ruler, what has been entrusted to his care, the principle, is the national stock, the people over whom he rules at God's good pleasure.

And if he fails to maintain that, then he will have nothing to pass on to future generations, which is to say, to the beneficiaries.

A good gardener plants good plants in his garden and removes noxious weeds.

A good farmer takes care that his crops and his livestock are fit, healthy, and strong, and that those attributes are passed on to future generations, and that unwelcome, harmful, or unwanted attributes are not passed on to future generations.

A prince, a ruler of the people, is fundamentally in that same sort of role.

The gardener cares for plants, the farmer cares for crops and livestock, the ruler cares for his people, and caring for his people means acting as a steward in the same sort of way as the gardener cares for his plants and the farmer cares for his crops and his livestock.