July 12, 2004

Gardening
"Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in 
Eden; and there he put the man he had formed" 
(Bereshit / Genesis 2:8).

A lot of people like gardening. I think I understand 
why. There is something rewarding about being part of 
the blossoming of creation. The growing of plants, 
flowers, fruits and vegetables is a wonderful 
combination of natural process and the intervention of 
people to bring forth things useful and oftentimes 
beautiful.

Gardening brings people out of doors and in touch with 
nature in a most intimate way - in a way that not too 
long ago was experienced by what was probably a 
majority of people on earth. Yet because of the great 
migration to cities and the resultant urban lifestyle, 
many people have to go out of their way to keep in 
touch with the land.

According to the Bible human beings began life in a 
garden. While the word garden creates the image of a 
lovely place of flowers and perhaps some neat rows of 
tomatoes and zucchini, the Garden of Eden was probably 
far more extensive than a suburban garden. It was more 
likely the place of our first livelihood, rather than 
just a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.

Notice that according to the verse quoted, God himself 
planted this garden. He then put the man and the woman 
in the garden to take care of it. The first job given 
to our original parents was that of gardeners, though 
it might be more accurate to call them farmers.

Years ago a friend of mine referred to the curse of 
work as if the concept of work itself was something 
that was a result of our first parents' sin. But 
according to the Scriptures work itself is not a 
curse. Work was cursed by God as one of the 
consequences of Adam and Eve's rebellion. In the third 
chapter of Bereshit (English: Genesis) we read:

"To Adam he said, 'Because you listened to your wife 
and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 
"You must not eat of it," Cursed is the ground because 
of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all 
the days of your life. It will produce thorns and 
thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the 
field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your 
food until you return to the ground, since from it you 
were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will 
return.'" (Bereshit / Genesis 3:17-19).

It is difficult for us to accurately imagine what Adam 
and Eve's work in the garden was like. The only kind 
of work we know of is one that includes the kind of 
struggle described in the passage as by sweat and 
thorns. It seems the work they knew at first was one 
far more efficient and pleasurable than anything we 
have ever experienced.

Be that as it may there is still a great connection 
between humankind's first assignment and the gardening 
of today - whether it is professional farming or 
tending one's flowers on the week-end. We were 
designed to be in touch with the things of earth. 
Touching the soil, sowing seeds, pruning branches, 
harvesting produce, caring for animals, and so on are 
all part of who we are as human beings.

Our primary calling as human beings is to be 
caretakers of this wonderful planet on which we live. 
While not all of us are to be farmers and gardeners, 
the world's economy is still dependant on farming. 
While we continue to do our work amidst thorns and by 
the sweat of our brow, we can look forward to the day 
when the curse will be lifted and we will be able to 
do the work of God unhindered.