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Stewardship Spotlight – Warehouse or Wilderness

Kerrie Kleppin-Winn
October 8 2019

In an essay, “The Warehouse and Wilderness,” Scott Russell Sanders (A Conservationist Manifesto) compares two guiding but rival narratives.  The one goes like this:

“A long while ago the universe burst into being out of the void by accident.  . . . two-legged creatures arrive on the scene with no more purpose, meaning, or mission that any other parcels of matter.  They walk around briefly on this minor planet, amid random stuff which they name and manipulate and use as they see fit, and they fall apart and become stuff in turn.”    p. 78

This story which Sanders has labeled as the Warehouse story portrays the world as a chance collection of stuff that we, a chance creation, are free to exploit, reassemble and consume.  It is a story we have all lived to some degree.


In contrast, his other guiding and rival narrative is the Wilderness story which he tells like this:

“Our planet is a great community of creatures bound together by a web of relationships . . .. Humans, as bearers of consciousness, also bear a special responsibility to learn what we can of the laws that govern this evolutionary process, to align ourselves with the powers at work in the world, and to care for one another and for all sentient beings.  Everything we do takes place within the great community of living things, . . .”    p. 80


Inside one narrative we dwell in chaos and chance; in the other, we live in an ordered cosmos with purpose.  In one, if we wish to eat endangered whale, why not? We live in a warehouse stocked for us. In the other, we are compelled to treat others as we wish to be treated.  In one, appetites are to be indulged. In the other, appetites are to be aligned with those of others; after all, we live in a web of relationships to be nurtured.


Stories have consequences and the narrative by which you live by makes a difference for you and for all around you.  Stewardship reveals our discipleship and equips in the struggle with the competing narratives in each of our lives. We know the tension that resides in each of us between the warehouse and wilderness narratives, between the “I want” and “let’s share” narrative.  Jesus’ narratives contrast the reign of God with the reign of Caesar. You have your own competing stories. A few of mine are:

  • I am all for reducing carbon and I’m flying to see family.
  • I am all for health care for all and I am also satisfied with my current insurance.
  • I am all for affordable housing and I have benefited from the deductibility of mortgage interest.
  • I am all for justice, equity and equality; and I have benefited from privilege.


Walking in the way of Jesus, stewardship, is challenging as narratives in our life clash.  Thus, we join with one another to remember the larger narrative of God’s grace and God’s call to stay on message, on the way.