Tending Our Gardens
By Bryan Crotts
Yard work and gardening can be very rewarding. Colorful flowers, straight lines in the lawn, perfect mulch, ripe tomatoes on a sandwich, squash and zucchini in your summer pasta dish, and so on. It can also be very frustrating. Drought, weeds, storms, and pests can ruin your reward.
But such is our lot in life! This side of sin and curses (Genesis 3 & Romans 8), there are thorns, frustrations, and fruitlessness mixed in with harvests, abundance, and green thumb experiences. God has given each of us gardens to tend in this life – and for His glory.
A look at Genesis 1:28 reveals two significant commands, or creation ordinances, from God – “be fruitful” and “subdue the earth.” God gave us these charges before the fall of man into sin and we are still under obligation, though frustrated by sin, to fulfill them.
Let’s call the “be fruitful” command our social garden. Obviously this includes “filling the earth” with children! And children come with many more instructions in the Bible – telling the next generation of God & what He’s done, training them in the right ways, correcting them, preparing them for the world and more (Deuteronomy 6 & Proverbs). Other social aspects to include might be church, school, government, and clubs – for the betterment of society. Some among us find ourselves as teachers, elected officials, enforcers of law, people managers, elders, deacons, and church volunteers. A majority of us are moms, dads, and grandparents or have some influence in the lives of the next generation. God has given us the privilege as his image-bearers to serve as gardeners in these important social spheres.
The second garden we can call the natural garden, as God has called us to rule over the earth. Think of how much “subduing the earth” goes on around us – and how many of us are part of that work! We’ve harnessed rivers, nuclear power is generated just up the road, financial institutions have mastered a market, scientists formulate medicines, surgeons repair, tradesman allow for modern comforts in our buildings, artists produce beauty, unnoticed minerals make up semi-conductors, and on and on we could list. Among you are builders, engineers, electrical geniuses, business entrepreneurs, medical professionals, computer & information masters, farmers, manufacturers, landscapers, scientists and more.
In some way, we are all tending gardens that have social or natural aspects. In my mind the most important gardens are home, church and job. These gardens have weeds, require sweat and pain, and have thorns and pests. These are part of the promised post-Eden life in the sin-filled place we live. Our social gardens are disrupted by rebellion and broken relationships, while our natural gardens are laden with misuse, waste, and laziness. Yet God has commanded us to tend them all the while.
God gives us encouragement along the way. “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) The long-term harvest of our gardens is what we’re to keep in mind – the crown of life. God also has restoration in mind. The Bible follows a rich outline of creation, fall, and redemption. It tells of the fall of man due to sin and fallen man’s experience throughout history. But it doesn’t end there! God tells of a day when “there will no longer be any curse.” (Revelation 22:3) Jesus has come to take away the sin, brokenness, and curses. We sing at Christmastime, “He comes to make His blessings flow. Far as the curse is found.”
Tend your gardens well! Count the sweat and pain as joyful Kingdom work. Jesus has suffered just as you are doing now. And for sure, God will bring us back to his garden, “where there will no longer be any curse!”