Inequality is a corruption of God’s provision. It is a failure, on a global scale, of our human purpose to be custodians of our planet’s resources, and a failure to honour the God who provides for his people with abundance. The purpose of this study is to use Scripture to enable us to reframe ourselves as ‘owners’ to recognise our status as custodians of God’s earth.
Read: 1 Corinthians 10:26
From the first chapters of Genesis and the first chapter of John, we learn of a God who created the earth and all in it. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, echoing Psalm 24, we learn that God did not hand ownership over to us, but initiated a participatory custodianship whereby ownership remains with God but management is transferred to humans.
Paul writes in the present tense – “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”. And so it remains today.
Discuss: To what extent has our view of resources been shaped by Scripture versus our cultural context? What would it mean if Christians shifted our perspective away from thinking that we own things (land, possessions, resources), over to a position whereby God is the owner of all things upon this earth? Share examples of when this shift of perspective has occurred, and what difference it made.
Exercise: As a creative exercise, move around the space you occupy (house or garden), naming the land and all things as the Lord’s. Eg: “these trees are the Lord’s, this house is the Lord’s.” Dwell upon at least one and give thanks to God for it.
Gather again and share reflections on the experience. Having acknowledged God as the owner of the earth, the next Bible passage is about our role as custodians.
Read: Luke 12:13-21, The Rich Farmer
The question that sparks Jesus' parable is about fair distribution of wealth. As Jesus responds with a story, he is careful to point out how the farmer got his wealth – from the richness of the soil. This soil is God’s, and so with the labours of the farmer it has become fruitful. The story starts with a beautiful example of participatory custodianship in action.
Exercise: After reading and discussing the story, try this creative writing (or talking!) exercise: Rewrite the ending of this parable, as though the farmer had been ‘rich towards God’.
“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will...'
Pray: As part of your prayers, ask for ways to be true to the responsibilities of custodianship over God’s earth.
Further reading: If you have time, or would like to broaden your biblical study, consider also Exodus 16 (the provision of Manna in the desert); Leviticus 25 (the process for the Year of Jubilee) and Acts 2:43-47 (the early church sharing all things in common).