REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) has to be one of my favorite stores. I truly need to button up my wallet before I enter because of all the backpacking, hiking, camping, biking, and skiing equipment they have. I started buying REI equipment when their only store was in Seattle and I would take the ferry from Bremerton to gaze upon all the possibilities. I still use an REI down sleeping bag that I purchased more than forty years ago.
So it caught my attention this week when I rediscovered that part of REI’s mission is stewardship. “REI’s passion for the outdoors runs deep. Our core purpose is to inspire, educate and outfit people for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” Now the word stewardship has often gotten a bad rap in churches, because it often becomes a code word for “fundraising” or worse “begging for money.” But with REI the word is cool because they recognize that the magnificent outdoors that their customers enjoy must be maintained for future generations. None of us “own” these landscapes, but rather we are to be stewards or managers of creation for others.
They see it as a sound business decision, because without the protection and care of the wilderness, their business will decline. REI even produces an annual stewardship report which
measures progress toward our goals to operate a sustainable business. It also tracks our broader efforts to ensure that the next generation has a connection to the natural places we all enjoy.
Stewardship is a biblical concept in which as creatures of God we recognize that God is the true owner of all creation. We have responsibility to care for the earth. The psalmist praises God for this gift, “God, you have given human beings dominion over the works of your hands” (Psalm 8:5). Dominion is not domination, but responsible care and oversight, or in a word: stewardship.
A few years ago I went on a hike with my son to a renowned alpine lake. The gorgeous setting beneath a large peak had been photographed many times. However when we reached it, the beauty had lost much of it luster from overuse. Toilet paper, trash and half-chopped trees littered the lake side. Good stewardship had been neglected. I saw then why REI wants to restore it.
How are you a steward of God’s creation?
Lord Jesus, teach me to be a good steward of my wealth, time, relationship and gifts.