(Editor’s Note: Too often today many Christians are living a life divorced from GOD’s Creation. We are afraid of making an idol of Creation yet we make idols of ourselves – only tending to our own affluent lusts and inflamed desires while we wait for eternity- meanwhile ignoring GOD’s sovereign command and purpose for humankind to guard and serve Creation as humble servants of our Creator. May we see that it is not just the job of professionals and specialized vocations to ‘avad’ and ‘shamar’ Creation – but it is a basic human vocation for all of us – especially those of us who are disciples of Jesus.)
“And YHWH God set the human being in the garden to ‘avad it and to shamar it.” (Genesis 2:15). I am reading a fascinating series of lectures by Biblical scholar Ellen Davis called “Reading the Bible through Agrarian Eyes.” I am captivated by her insight into the Hebrew word ‘avad. It is usually translated into English as work or till, as in a farmer working/tilling the land.
Davis says that this word can mean to work for someone, as a servant or a slave, as in people serving God or Pharaoh, and also to work as in on or with the material. She says there is a third connotation that is often dismissed, but makes sense in this context, where ‘avad means to work for something, to work for the earth, serving its needs. ‘Avad is also often translated as worship, in this context not as implying that the earth is divine, but as recognizing its worth and value.
I really like this idea, that God is not asking us to turn everything into a productive vegetable garden, but is asking us to serve the needs of our earth, and to recognize its goodness and worth.
(Originally posted at: Sister Moon, Brother Wasp – Thank you Lydia!)
Lydia Reese is a wildlife biologist by training, a sort-of farmer by the grace of God and the Friary, and a full-time daydreamer by birth. She currently lives at Hilfield Friary in Dorset, England, an intentional community of Anglican Franciscans, and works on the land there. She is originally from East Tennessee, USA.