“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” Genesis 2:8
It’s easy to literally interpret the Bible, and sometimes it’s not. Take, for example, Eden. In Genesis we read that after creating the world, God watered the ground and planted a garden, “…in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” This garden had trees pleasing to the eye and good for food, and man and woman were placed in the garden to care for it. Then the people entrusted to care for the garden sinned, were cast out, and ever since have had to “…till the ground from which he was taken.”
Many have searched for the Garden of Eden, supposedly somewhere near the headwaters of the rivers Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. None have found it. Eden, mythical? Eden, forbidden because of the original sin?
Take a look at the iconic photograph “Earthrise,” taken from Apollo 8. What a stark difference between the vast black emptiness of space, the almost monochrome gray pallor of the Moon and the brilliant multicolored Earth suspended in the darkness. Could Eden and Earth be one in the same? Perhaps. Earth certainly is a garden that provides for all of humankind’s needs.
Fifty years ago, how was man caring for this garden? Large fish kills in Lake Erie during the 1960s led some to declare it “dead.” In 1966, a Thanksgiving smog event in New York City killed more than 200 people. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire and covered the area in a thick black smoke. Residents in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls saw their neat yards turn into a soup of toxic chemicals as formerly buried waste began to seep upward.
Many saw that our treatment of our home planet needed attention, including me. I have come to appreciate that our home planet is indeed a gift from God, not mankind’s to own and despoil as we see fit. Scripture tells us the same.
• “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.”—Leviticus 25:23.
• “But ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.”—Job 12:7-10.
• “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.”—Exodus 23:10-11.
God is the creator. God “owns” the creation, not humans. Even though God’s word tells us that humankind has been given dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds in the air, over the cattle, and over every living thing, God expects us to be good stewards of creation:
• “You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the Israelites.”—Numbers 35:34.
• “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?”—Ezekiel 34:18-19.
Part of my walk with the Lord is to try to be a good steward of this Eden we call Earth. In part, I do this through my actions and the organizations that I support, including First Baptist Church. This community of faith shows its devotion to the gift that God has given us through actions including:
• Sustaining Way/Annie’s House and the Nicholtown Neighborhood partnership
• Collecting and recycling paper, cans, etc.
• Maintaining our portion of the Reedy River riparian corridor
• Installing solar panels on the roof of the Fellowship Hall
Maybe Eden is outside our front door, and we are God’s entrusted caretakers.
“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”—Genesis 1:31
—Rob Hanley, Stewardship Committee