As Oliver Hardy of the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy of the 1920’s and 30’s was fond of saying to his partner Stan Laurel. “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”. With the global COVID-19 pandemic raging, we certainly find ourselves in another nice mess today, arguably the biggest mess the world has ever seen. And our first response is like Oliver’s, finding somebody to blame for it – the Chinese, the Europeans, our own governments (local, state and national) or even God himself. The fact of the matter is we have forgotten the basic requirements of stewardship, or what I like to call the world’s oldest profession. We have forgotten that when God spoke his creation into existence, his final act before resting was to create humankind in God’s own image, both masculine and feminine, and to place us in charge of tending his creation as his stewards. Stewardship of God’s creation is still the profession to which all of mankind is called.
Unfortunately we have forgotten about that and have treated the earth as our own, rather than God’s, to be exploited for our own purposes, rather than his. And, having ignored God’s advice not to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we have attempted to explore the heights and depths of both causing all sorts of problems. In the process we have also forgotten that all of mankind, as well as all of the other creatures, are part of his creation we are called to tend and care for and have focused largely on satisfying our own personal perceived needs and desires. And once again we are reaping the fruits of the neglect of our stewardship obligations. In other words, we (yes, you and I) are the reason we find ourselves in such a nice mess. And we are groping to find ways to clean up our mess.
God will not sovereignly do that for us, although he certainly could. No, he long ago gave us that responsibility as his stewards. So it is up to us. He will, however, do what he has always promised to do. He will give us instructions on how to avoid evil consequences by choosing the good alternatives he provides us. When we do choose to abide by his instructions he has promised us peace, prosperity and long life. But when we choose to ignore them he warns us we will reap death and destruction. That is the harsh lesson we are currently learning.
All is not lost, however. There are hopeful signs emerging in the midst of this crisis. Everywhere we turn we hear “We are all in this together”. As indeed we are. And more and more people are banding together (while maintaining social distancing) to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus and searching for a cure. More and more of us are heeding the advice to self-isolate to preserve our own health and help prevent the unintentional spread of the virus. Industries are retooling to produce vital supplies such as face masks, ventilators and hand sanitizers in lieu of their regular consumer products. Health professionals are working overtime to care for those who have contracted the virus. And, miraculous to say, even the congressional Democrats and Republicans are at least attempting to forgo their bickering and name-calling and to work together to provide financial relief to the businesses and individuals hardest hit by the virtual cessation of commerce throughout the land.
In other words, we are beginning to honor our responsibilities as stewards of this earth and all of its inhabitants to love and respect ourselves and all those around us. And we are seeking God’s face to comfort and protect us and to provide a way through and out of this crisis. We are beginning to take God up on his long-standing promise:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)
We will survive this crisis, and we will be better off for having gone through it, if we continue to fulfill our responsibilities as God’s stewards of his creation.