Taking Care of God’s House

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In 2008, three former college schoolmates living in San Francisco came up with a novel idea.
Since hotel accommodations in the Bay Area were both hard to find and exceedingly expensive, they devised a website that would help out-of-towners locate short-term living quarters and breakfast – essentially, an opportunity for guests to crash in someone else’s house for a few days.  They called it AirBed&Breakfast, later renamed Airbnb. 
The company took off.  Customers love the comparatively affordable and spacious quarters.  Homeowners appreciate the chance to earn some money just by giving someone else the keys to their front door.
Plenty of things can go wrong, of course.  Sometimes the host drops the ball.  At other times the guests misbehave. 
Incidents that fall into the latter category can be pretty amazing.  Some Airbnb customers seem to forget where they are.  They’re living for a few days in somebody else’s house.  They’re cooking in that person’s kitchen, sleeping in their bed, and changing channels with their remote.  The host family’s pictures adorn the walls.  Everywhere you look, there are reminders that somebody else owns this place.  Yet a handful of guests come to the strange conclusion that they are free to invite strangers into the house and party down.
One Airbnb customer decided to pay off his expenses by re-renting the house for a third party’s wedding.  Another decided to operate a brothel.  One guest family resolved that they simply wouldn’t leave when their time was up, claiming that 30 days of occupancy gave them ownership.  A host returned to find peanut butter coating almost every interior surface of his house.  Yet another drove up to find that his house had burned to the ground. 
Living on somebody else’s property helps us grasp something of what it means to cultivate an attitude of global stewardship.
We all live in God’s house.  This is not our place.  This is his place.  Everywhere we look, we see reminders of him.  God specially created this world as a wonderful place for us to occupy for a limited time. 
And we have not been granted permission to trash the place. 
That idea was routinely dismissed in the preaching and teaching of the 19th century.  As the Industrial Revolution rapidly mechanized both farms and factories in Europe and North America, people tended to think of Nature as little more than raw material – an endless resource to be plundered at will. 
An almost militaristic attitude prevailed.  It was humanity’s destiny to conquer the mountains, tame the rivers, clear the forests, and defeat wild beasts.  The supporting Bible text was Genesis 1:28, where God commands Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
According to “dominion theology,” humanity is free to conquer and use every other living thing.
Within the last century, however, a far healthier perspective has come into view.  It springs from a second Genesis text: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (2:15).   Alternative translations declare that Adam should “guard,” “keep,” and “tend” the garden.  Those are the verbs of stewardship. 
Creation is far more than a supply depot for raw materials.  It is a one-of-a-kind treasure that glorifies God.  Every time we experience the beauty and diversity of what God has made, we see him
People of faith are finally beginning to apply the word “sin” to humanity’s misuse of God’s world, and are acknowledging the virtue of preserving his stunning natural works. 
Without falling into the trap of Left vs. Right or “my environmentalism is more pure than your environmentalism,” is there anything that all of us can rally around?
A great place to start are six words that begin with the prefix “Re-.” 
We can all Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  These are not controversial matters.  These are not political issues.  These are practical ways that we can live more wisely as people whose first aim is not to please ourselves, but to please God.
Then come Repent, Rethink, and Rejoice.  As the Bible’s account of Noah’s Ark makes clear, God has made a covenant not just with people, but with all living things.  We cannot remain spectators to the destruction of what God has made, just because we don’t know what to do. 
The problems are huge and the issues involved are complicated, not to mention controversial.  We may feel very small in the face of them. 
But God is very large, and our prayers and actions will set into motion changes that are beyond our ability to imagine.
We all get to live in God’s amazing house. 
May we be the kind of guests who leave the premises better than we found them.