Gardening: Act of worship or poor stewardship?

Josh Larsen

April 22, 2010

It's a good thought, but I think the heat is beating you down.

To argue that it's poor stewardship by that argument would relegate a lot of other things to that same category. Art, web-design, poetry, painting your house, mowing your lawn more often than legally required, combing your hair. The argument boils down to fundamentalist pragmatism.

April 22, 2010

Given that God's first environment for humanity was a garden and that he commanded them to "work it and take care of it," I think that wise and loving stewardship of creation involves more than just leaving it alone. Of course, the temptation is there for stewardship to be dominating or controlling. But if done with humility and out of the goal to bless creation, gardening in and of itself seems unassailable as a God-honoring activity.

April 22, 2010

No such thoughts EVER enter my head while I'm lugging mulch! The logical conclusion to your train of thought is to let your property go to weeds, or to move back into a condominium--and, by implication, so should all who want to worship--with occasional visits to the local forest. Mercy, you have over-thought one of the Lord's great gifts: the ability to partner with Him in bringing beauty to life. And don't forget the joy and health from growing fruits and vegetables! I agree with jhurshman; the Lord's original intent was for us to abide in a garden!

April 22, 2010

I love this stanza of a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney; “The kiss of the sun for pardon, The song of the birds for mirth, One is nearer God's heart in a garden. Than anywhere else on earth.” The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree and we just happen to take after our Father. He planted the first garden and asked us to cultivate it. Jesus often prayed with His disciples in a garden in the Kidron Ravine called Gethsemane. After His resurrection He was mistaken for a gardener. In Solomon’s song he courts his bride in a garden. Adam’s race was born in a garden where he walked and communed with God. Jesus was betrayed in a garden, He was buried and resurrected in a garden. They just feel very much like home and the human race creates beautiful gardens every place we settle. It’s in our genes.

One you may increase your feelings of value about gardening is to plant a raised bed vegetable garden. There is a movement in our city to replace lawns with productive vegetable gardens. I have a small garden and it supplies all my vegetables and many of my spices for 2/3 of the year with enough to share with others. With a little ingenuity and the right varieties, you can even garden through the winter. There are few things as satisfying as reaching under the snow to harvest mustard greens, pak choy, brussel sprouts or kale in January.

Thomas Rainer
April 22, 2010

I would say there's nothing broken about gardening itself. To garden is to enter a relationship with a piece of ground. At its essence, all of our digging, weeding, tilling, and planting are not about control, but about knowing. Not about improving, but about listening. The human impulse to mark the earth with lines—a row of crops, the setting of a foundation, a hedgerow on the horizon—is primal and necessary. We strike the earth in order to live.

I would suggest searching yourself while you garden. Do you feel inherently sinful, or connected? Is it really about control, or do you encounter the Other in a mysterious way? I think that will answer your question

April 22, 2010

Gardening is an act of worship.

For one thing, it's probably the best metaphor for the relationship God intends between the person and the earth. Not to wrest dominion over it or exploit it, but to exist in relationship with it, tending it and caring for it. A plot of earth that isn't properly cared for won't bear useful plants after a few years - one needs to continually replenish it through crop rotation, composting, and other means. This requires stewardship over a patch of land. We realize that we depend on the Earth - not the other way around. This means that we'll resist ideologies that promote the exploitation of the earth, and work against those who would pollute our planet or steal its resources. It requires us to have a symbiotic relationship with our planet - which provides a needed correction on the often-parasitic relationship with the planet espoused by the moneyed class.

Second, gardening requires a great deal of patience and trust. I tend my tomatoes and peppers now, because I know that in time they will bear fruit. Right now I toil, but in a season I will reap and enjoy and share the bounty of the earth. It's a good metaphor for working for the Kingdom, which requires that we trust that the Kingdom will come. It's a good reason to work for Kingdom justice, Kingdom peace, and Kingdom inclusion now, trusting that God will not let our efforts go to waste.

Third, it illustrates the ways in which creation provides bounty for itself. What is compost? It's decomposed plant matter. God created creation as a self-sustaining ecological system, in which death provides the means for new life. (Could there be a better metaphor for life in Christ?) Seeing the glorious self-sustenance of creation brings us closer to the Creator - and will cause us to resist those who think that it's okay to take a link or two out of the chain of life (or whose negligence results in the same).

Fourth and finally, it provides an opportunity for community. I share my crops with my roommates, with my neighbors, with my friends. I have people over for barbecues. It creates places where hospitality and radical welcome can take place, and enables us to remind ourselves that nobody is to be rejected from God's table - no matter whether they're rich or poor, white or African American or Asian or Latino/a, straight or gay or lesbian or transgendered, male or female. If we garden not only for ourselves but also for our neighbors, it calls us to a lifestyle of radical inclusion and puts us in situations where our stereotypes and prejudices can be broken apart by God's radical love.

April 22, 2010

I am a lifetime organic gardener so i understand where James is starting but I don’t think this metaphor will take us to where he is ending. We were instructed to take dominion over the earth. The language in Genisis is active. We are to rule over all the creatures of the sea and land. Redeemed men and women will take dominion in an ethical, stewarding way as any wise king would. But we are to subdue the earth. The earth does not easily cooperate, it wants to revert to thorns and thistles. The author says “cursed is the ground” and “in toil you will eat of it”. I also think that “exploitation” is a loaded word which can mean very different things to different people. I get the sense that this commenter wants to use it in the sense of preventing oil drilling, coal mining or advancing cap and trade. How do you define “steal it’s resources” and who are we stealing from? The “parasitic relationship with the planet espoused by the moneyed class” sort of comes out of left field.

The other point I would make is that while a garden can provide opportunity for community it’s an unjustified leap of logic to say therefore practicing homosexuals (or unrepentant thieves) can have an active place in the church. God’s table is open for anyone, rich or poor, white or African American or Asian or Latino but the one who will not exchange his clothes for the wedding garment is cast out. Paul clearly designates several kinds of sinful behavior as disqualifying us from a role in the life of the church.

Your second and third points are beautiful and insightful. I would just hate to stretch the gardening metaphor as a pretext for a certain kind of politics or class warfare.

April 22, 2010

I've been trying talk my husband in to letting the weeds grow and calling it a xeriscape.

Seriously, pulling up weeds doesn't feel like worship, it feels like contrition. Gardening makes all those agrarian references in the Bible more personal. While I'm yanking out those cursed thorns and thistles, I contemplate my spiritual weeds and do appropriate pruning there as well.

April 23, 2010

Like my Father used to say, "That's between you and God".

April 23, 2010

Yes, go ahead and 'subdue the earth' if you don't those cursed weeds will only take over ! All food is good if taken with a prayer of thanks -- I thank God for every carrot & bean I pick from our garden, and for the sun & rain He provided!

Chris Ruch
April 23, 2010

You could use your garden to grow food/flowers/etc that you either sell (then possibly donate some or all of the money for charity), or give the food to charity, or use it as a teaching tool to help others learn to grow food/flowers/etc for themselves. Plus it's something that you both enjoy together as a couple... and these days, I think we should be thankful for anything that helps build a relationship instead of tear it down. As far as "not being a good steward" due to garden expenses... don't you think the suppliers of those materials need to eat and take care of their families? And if you can be a part of that process, doesn't it make your expenses then an act of GOOD stewardship? If we collectively didn't buy from others... we potentially cause others to struggle financially. I say you should enjoy it and make the most of it.

April 23, 2010

I love to garden and I don't spend a lot of money at all. We invested in a chipper, and now my neighbors save their fallen sticks and branches for me--free mulch!
I start my flowers from seed and use saved or shared seeds when I can get them. I also share cuttings and transplants with my friends and neighbors.
If it's starting to bother you because you're spending so much money on it, maybe you're just doing it wrong.

April 23, 2010

If God has blessed you with the financial resources and skills to garden, then garden. If you are in a mass of debt, can't pay your bills, aren't properly caring for your children, then perhaps spending money on a garden isn't the thing to do.

April 23, 2010

Why an either/or, one in the place of the other? Enjoy your garden; a good family activity; neighbors love surplus tomatoes, etc. :?)
But of course also find the time to be involved in society, in conservation programs, in nature.
Immediate cost of mulch v. the big-picture cost to the environment of chemical fertilizers, weed killers, pest poisons, etc. is a point to consider.
So many "green tips" were made available for Earth Day---one in particular that is of interest---boiling water will kill weeds as efficiently as poison.
Garden away, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Support causes such as Natural Conservancy, organic farming, locally-grown produce at farmers' markets; find time to volunteer time or donate money, goods to pantries and thrift stores. And involve the kids appropriately in the process---teach them the virtues.

Jon Stolpe
April 23, 2010

This seems a bit over the top. If we took this argument to every area of our lives, we would end up questioning a lot more than just gardening. Should we be sleeping? Should we be working at our jobs? Should we be wasting time and money doing this or that? Is gardening an obsession or does it draw you closer to the creator? Does gardening give you an avenue to talk to others who are far from God? I guess I understand that we need to be thinking about everything we do as it relates to getting closer to God and drawing others closer to him, but I truly believe that gardening (or many other "hobbies") can actually be a gift from God.

April 23, 2010

"If done with humility and out of the goal to bless creation, gardening in and of itself seems unassailable as a God-honoring activity."
Amen! And, Good grief! I am no gardener, but like Tolkein I reverence them. Whether for your own pleasure, or to share with others, gardening seems to be as close to active prayer as a person can get. You certainly spend a lot of time in the right position, at any rate!

April 23, 2010

Thanks for writing on this topic. Many of the same concerns have occurred to me as a Christian gardener. Your comments sparked me to write a longer response at: http://cathysmith001.wordpress...

April 25, 2010

Actually, Man's purpose from the very beginning was defined as being a "gardener." God put us here to tend the garden that He made. Yes, there are a lot of other "pressing concerns" but at some level what we can actually do in our own gardens and in our own most local relationships is more important than what we cannot do about more global issues. It does not mean that we don't care about those things, but we must do what we can do and believe in God's power for the rest.

April 26, 2010

My mind needs a break sometimes. Gardening is better than TV. It’s also cheaper than cable.

April 26, 2010

One of my favorite blogs has lately, now that spring has sprung, been consumed with gardening tales. The author is using her garden itself as an act of stewardship--planting native plants, inviting native birds and bugs to eat said plants, trying to recreate at least in miniature the sort of forests and fields and meadows that existed in her area before mankind tore it all up. Restoring a piece of the original glory. She also hates mowing grass and is using her gardening to slowly overtake the expensive and wasteful lawn with beautiful, more self-sustaining shrubs and bulbs.

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