Finance Helps Us Fulfill the Creation Mandate to Be Good Stewards
Stewardship is the fulfillment of God’s mandate to fill the earth, subdue (or govern) it, work it, and care for it (Genesis 1:28-30, Genesis 2:15). God’s original creation is shown in Genesis as a garden filled with plants and animals and people in perfect communion with God. The garden is good, but it is not meant to stay unchanged forever. When the Bible looks ahead to the fulfillment of God’s creation it shows us a world teeming with people from every nation praising God. They are no longer in a garden, but a city with foundations, walls, gates, tree-lined streets, iron, gold, domesticated animals and merchant ships (Isaiah 60, Revelation 21). This development of creation from a garden to a city filled with people and their cultural elements is the conclusion of God’s mandate to fill the earth, subdue it, work it and care for it. Even though God’s creation at the beginning was perfect and full of resources, it was not complete as God intended it to become. Mouw argues that “God intended from the beginning that human beings would fill the earth with the processes, patterns, and products of cultural formation”. We are God’s creative hands and continue his creative work, building by the grace of God on his perfect and abundant creation foundation. Van Duzer argues that God’s perfect, though incomplete, creation provides an excellent foundation for business.
Allocating resources well over time so that they grow is vital to fulfilling this creation mandate. Examples of how finance helps humans obey God’s creation mandate include saving money to buy seeds in the spring time, raising capital to purchase mining equipment which will produce ore in future years, a young family borrowing money to buy a house, and a community issuing bonds to build a school. Finance provides the future-oriented allocation of resources necessary for growth. It provides resources to those with the greatest opportunity to increase resources in the coming period of time, then shares the increase with those who lent the spare resources that otherwise would have been unproductive. Without finance, people would live each day with only the resources they could garner that day or that they personally had accumulated in prior days. The economic growth humanity has experienced over the centuries would not be possible without finance. It would be impossible for humanity to thrive without borrowing and lending.
God mandates us not only to work his creation, but also to care for it. Because borrowing and lending is inherently cross-time, finance encourages a long-term perspective on decision making. People who take out mortgages to buy homes tend to take care of them better than those who rent houses short-term. Conversely, unsustainable activities are hard to finance. Who would lend money to a lumber company that is cutting its forests so quickly that they will be depleted in a few years? Finance also makes possible capital improvements that reduce operational use of natural resources. For example a city can borrow money to expand its public transportation system, which will better use God’s carbon resources and also provide retirement income to the municipal bond investors.
Richard Mouw, When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2002): 11.
Van Duzer, Why Business Matters to God: (and what still needs to be fixed), 35-38.
Paul Mills, “Faith versus Prudence? Christians and financial security,” Cambridge Papers, Vol 4 No 1, March 1995 argues that in their financial decisions Christians must exhibit both faith in God’s daily provision and prudence in planning for the future.
For an explanation of the broader Biblical basis of caring for creation which goes beyond the creation mandate in Genesis 2:15 see Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God and Wright, The Mission of God’s People.