Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
A person doesn’t have to look hard to find signs that the gardening season is upon us. In our region, the ground is being prepared and a few anxious folks may be challenging the weather as they put seed in the ground while the frost-free date is still about 3 weeks away. Spring always brings out the gardening urge in most folks, whether it be a few potted plants, a backyard garden plot, a neighborhood garden, or a full fledged farm. We have this pull to till the soil and tend the plants and trees because we were created with this drive within us.
In Genesis chapters one and two we can read the story of creation, the basics of which are familiar to most everyone, believer and nonbeliever alike. “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” (Gen 2:8-9) But the Lord God designed His garden with the further purpose of providing work for the man. “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to tend and keep it,” (Gen 2:15) To tend and keep means that the garden would need man’s help and the man would need the garden, not only to provide a ready food supply, but to add to the purpose of His life.
Earlier in chapter 1, the first account of creation, “Then God blessed them and God said to them,” (the man and the woman He had just created), “Be fruitful, and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)
Not only had God created a pleasing environment, and one which would provide food and work for the man, but it would be a blessing to them. And chief among these blessings is an enhanced awareness of who God is and all that He has provided. Plus, the process of growing things provides us with an appreciation for the truth, that our part in the process is very minor. Who put the desire in the seed to grow and reproduce? Who provided the nutrients in the soil to feed the plant? Who designed the process of germination which turns a flower into a fruit, or makes the seed edible. As St. Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:6)
At the same time, this work, any honorable work, provides purpose, even a sense of identity to mankind. When meeting someone for the first time, we don’t ask, “Who are you?” Instead we are more likely to say, “What do you do.” Probably no one would answer that question by saying, “Nothing, I do nothing.” There are several scriptures relating to our need to stay busy, often these will refer to the sluggard or those inclined toward sloth. But perhaps a couple non-Biblical sayings sum it up. “Idle hands are the devil’s playground,” (Ben Franklin) or “The devil finds work for idle hands,” (Henry David Thoreau) These are close to the same and echo the Lord’s warnings against idleness while adding explanation as to why God determined that man would need some worthy work to keep him going. And God chose a garden.
For sure, some work is toilsome. This itself is a consequence of the fall of man. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread til you return to the ground,… " (Gen 3:19) But even the effects of this curse God placed upon man and upon the earth due to the sin of mankind, can be muted if we also remember these words from Colossians 3:23. “Whatever you do, do it heartedly as to the Lord and not to men. Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”
As in most activities, the attitude by which we approach our work greatly effects the outcome and our enjoyment of it. Much more can be said about this subject. But the Lord has given me a garden in which to live, and right now, it needs a bit of tending. I am blessed.