Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
I just can’t let this verse go by unnoticed. We’re in the midst of a stewardship focus at church and yesterday was the holiday I lovingly refer to as “The Feast of St. Chuck,” (otherwise known as Groundhog Day) so a verse that so clearly and concisely provides a connection between stewardship and woodchucks cannot be overlooked.
The foundation for any understanding of stewardship is that God is the owner and we are stewards, trustees, guardians of God’s stuff. While God gave authority to Adam and Eve in order that they might tend the earth, God never handed over deed and title. The Psalmist clearly understands that the earth still belongs to God, along with everything in it and everyone on it. Stewardship is not just about money, it is a fundamental understanding of our identity and purpose in the world. It’s not our stuff…it’s not our money, our time, our talent, our yard, our trees, our dog. It all belongs to God and God is expecting us to exercise the authority we’ve been given according to God’s desires.
And so, with that foundational understanding of my role as a steward of God’s stuff, I found myself rising to defend the embattled woodchuck. Now, perhaps you don’t live where there are woodchucks. A woodchuck is the same thing as a groundhog, and they live in grassy areas at the edges of woodland areas. They hibernate for the winter and folklore has said that when a groundhog wakes up and sets his paws outside of his hole if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. That’s why there’s a Groundhog Day. But in order to survive hibernation, the woodchuck must spend his “awake” time eating enough to carry him through. That’s where your garden comes in.
Woodchucks like to eat flowers and vegetables and most anything that you like to see growing in your garden. And so, people call them pests. They trap woodchucks, they shoot woodchucks, and generally call down God’s wrath on these cute, furry creatures whose only sin is desiring a bit of lunch.
Against all of that stands Psalm 24. Those aren’t your woodchucks. Those are God’s woodchucks. God made them with love and joy and gave them the breath of life. So, as you stand with your shotgun propped against your shoulder, what do you say to God when God asks, “Ummm…what are you doing with my woodchuck?”
I know it seems silly, but I think it is down here…at the silly level…where both our sin and our righteousness begin. Our desire to label things as “pests” creeps its way up the food chain…first the ants at the picnic, then the mice in the cupboard, then the squirrel, the woodchuck, the coyote, the deer, the bear. Soon it is the neighbor’s children, then the Native Americans. If one little thing can be seen as outside of God’s concern, it becomes easy to add to the list of disposables. Many studies have shown that those who abuse animals grow to abuse human beings.
On the flip side, recognizing that even the tiniest bug was created by God and belongs to God can easily grow to a love and concern for all of humanity. If I can learn to respect even the mosquito that bites me, I will have a much better shot at learning to love my enemies.
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. God is the owner, we are the stewards…of the earth, of the woodchucks, of each other.
God of the woodchucks, teach us how to love your creation and to live within it in peace. Amen.
SpiritWalkers is now available in audio as a podcast. Visit www.annerobertson.com/poddevotions.html to subscribe or to listen online.