God has green thumbs. There’s no doubt about that. You are never closer to the heart and purposes of God than when you’re on you’re on your knees in the garden pulling weeds with sweat running down your brow. Or tilling that rocky soil, pulling up thorns and thistles, or wringing your hands with frustration at those rabbits and deer who keep spoiling your hard work and preventing a fruitful harvest. See also “Peter Rabbit in the Garden of Eden.”
The story of the Scriptures is one long never ending lawn and garden expo. The opening pages of the Bible show the Creator as master gardener playing in the dirt, sowing seeds, bringing life out of the dust. God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds” (Gen. 1:11).
Then we read that “God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). Then God passed his love of gardening on to his human image bearers to carry on the task:
“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed….The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:8, 15).
We are all gardeners. God created human beings in his image and placed them on earth to cultivate it and care for it. We were to use our abilities to maximize human flourishing and honor God’s created order by exercising wise and benevolent dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms. Genesis 1:27-28:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Unfortunately, our first parents disrupted God’s original plans and brought a curse down on the entire Garden project. Ever since, we’ve been pulling weeds, fighting thistles and bruising our foot trying to drive our spade into rocky soil.
Do you ever wonder what gardening would have been like before the Fall? Entire rows of Home and Garden store products are the direct result of the following words of judgment:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from 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” (Gen. 3:17-19).
Weed killers. Protective work gloves. Pesticides. Fertilizers of every kind. These are all products to overcome the folly of those first two gardeners.
Adam and Eve were placed in a paradise garden called Eden where the soil was always rich, the trees pruned themselves, and the word “drought” hadn’t been invented yet. But they were soon exiled from Eden, never to return. Ever since, we’ve been busting our backs outside of Eden.
But the gardening continues! While the soil conditions have changed, our divine mandate remains the same. “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken” (Gen. 3:23). Banished to do what? Yes, to continue working the ground…but now under the curse of a fallen, sin-stained earth.
So, what spiritual lessons can we learn from all those lawn and garden responsibilities we cannot escape?