Stewardship of God's Creation: An Interview with Stephen Shelt

What do you do, and how did the Lord call you into this vocation?

I currently work for a local landscaping company, and have worked previously in agricultural missions and edible landscaping/organic gardening. I was first challenged to think Biblically about God’s purpose for His creation and our role in it through mentors in high school and college. They showed me how Scripture commands us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” and that God’s Lordship should transform how we interact with everyone and everything. These thoughts solidified into a passion for helping Christians relate to the environment Biblically during two years of missionary work in Uganda, where I trained farmers in methods that enhanced rather than degraded their environment and enabled them to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities.

How does having a Biblical worldview transform the way you approach landscaping and gardening? 

It grants a strong sense of purpose to the job. One of God’s first commands to his newly-created image bearers was to work and tend his creation. Preserving the health and beauty of nature is a way that we can love God through obedience to his commands to  stewardship, while also loving people, all of whom depend on God’s creation to survive and flourish.

I’m also motivated to observe God’s character reflected in His design of the natural world. Even a basic understanding of plants, animals, and their broader ecological context will leave one in awe of God and hisdesign if we bring our Scriptural “glasses” to observation of the natural world. The practical consequence of this in my work is to look for ways to shape landscapes or gardens in ways that work with and enhance the natural processes God created to keep the land (and therefore us) healthy rather than resisting or harming them.

What does the Bible say to us as Christians about being good stewards of the creation?

God’s glory and character are revealed in his creation as well as through his word (Psalm 8, Romans 1:19-20), and when a species becomes extinct or we pollute a watershed, that reflection of God’s nature that he called “very good” is marred and disfigured. As believers we should be about the business of putting God’s glory on display, through the proclamation of the Gospel but also through obedience, which includes the exercise of an edifying dominion over creation, not the exploitation or abuse of it.

In our global economy, where the means by which our food, clothing and shelter reach us are often obscure, it’s easy forget that we depend on the health of soil, water, and air God created for our survival. But nonetheless, creation stewardship is one way we can obey the second greatest commandment to love our neighbor, who like us, depends on creation to live. Perhaps the simplest way we can participate in that stewardship is to seek to be aware of the environmental consequences of our purchasing and lifestyle choices.  We may not see the effects immediately, but applying Biblical wisdom in these decisions can affect people around the world and future generations.