If the headline causes speculation, then I think that’s good. I certainly believe I have an answer to the question, but not everyone agrees with me. Yet, if I truly believe my farming is connected to my faith, then I better be able to state why.
People around the world have several belief systems. These belief systems usually have guiding principles. I am a born-again Christian and so the guiding principles I live by are documented in the Bible. And, it’s been through my study of the Bible as well as careful observation of creation that I’ve concluded that is it my responsibility as a child of God to manage my land as if God was doing it.
Many would call this stewardship.
As a child of God, stewardship is an important component in my relationship with God, the Creator of all things. The very concept of stewardship defines one party as owner (God) and another party as manager (man). No matter what title or deed I may produce, I am not true owner of anything.
In the all-satisifying relationship with God, He has made provision for me with such things as talent, abilities, economic means, and land. I have learned I need to be a good steward of all these things – in fact, of all things God provides. With His provision, I have found that all my needs are met if I manage these things in a way that is aligned to the way God would. As Creator and Provider, God put Adam in the garden to steward it, God engages me through His lovingkindness as overseer or steward of all He has provided me. This includes that little portion of creation God saw fit to give me to manage.
It’s clear from the description of the original plan in what God gave Adam to do in the Garden of Eden that it was part of God’s plan for mankind to steward His creation. Through Genesis 2:15 we see part of God’s will for Adam. “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”
As I study carefully what God called Adam to do, I see something interesting in the words. We need to be careful about being dogmatic about translations of Hebrew words. So, when the Bible gives us the phrase “to cultivate it and keep it” we want to be very sure we know what this means. So, I looked for insight into the Hebrew terms and how they are used.
Serve and protect
The Hebrew word we translate into “cultivate” is abad (pronounced aw-bad’). It is a primitive root meaning to work or by implication to serve, it can also mean to be bound to or to husband, as in animal husbandry.
Think of how differently the verse might be understood if we translate it more directly when the passage would be better read as “put him into the garden of Eden to serve it”. I believe serving the Earth helps us take on a different mindset than cultivate does. To serve the earth takes on a fuller meaning than cultivate ever could.
Serving in no way implies that man is lower than the Earth. A primary principle of the Bible is for man to adopt God’s ways. What better example of service do we have than Jesus Christ? Matthew 20:28 makes this plain. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” In Christlikeness, we are to serve the people and that part of creation where God places us. Our service isn’t exclusive to God’s creation, but it is a role we are given. This most certainly includes farming.
Likewise, we must not mistake the meaning of “keep” in Genesis 2:15. The Hebrew word translated as keep is shamar (pronounced shaw-mar’). This verb is a primitive root meaning to hedge around something, more properly to mean to guard or protect something.
In my mind, the better translation, especially for our purposes of farming, would be “put him into the garden of Eden to serve it and protect it”. Serve and protect. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
If this is the description of our role – at least in part – we are then performing the function of a steward on God’s behalf. What would we say to God when asked to give an account of our stewardship of the land He gave us to serve and protect? It’s a good question I think we all should ask of ourselves.
If we are satisfied that one of our roles as Christians is to steward the Earth – the place God created specifically for human habitation – then the next logical question would be how do we steward it. We can find our answer in many places in the Bible, but the short answer to how we steward creation is simply to say to do it the way that God would do it.
It is through Christ’s teaching we can learn how God would do it. That is a discussion for another day. Yet, I hope a beginning understanding of how connected faith and farming is begins to take root in our minds.
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