You may be thinking, “Sorry, I’m not into gardening, so maybe I’ll skip this series.” Not so fast. We’re talking about something far more central to our humanity than growing vegetables and flowers.
God the Creator made human begins in his divine image and likeness, and part of this likeness is our ability to join God in the creative, productive process. We are co-creators with God — His junior gardeners — given the key task of sharing the work of cultivating the earth. We’re not just talking about the natural environment. We’re talking about human productivity and work of every kind. Gardening in the Bible represents all the ways we use our creative capacities to impact our environment for better or for worse.
Another way to put it is that we all have a garden to tend. We all have a domain of responsibility. Parents are cultivating the garden of their home, trying their best to grow healthy children. Teachers have their classroom. Doctors have their practice and patients. Engineers have their factories and shops and products they make. The architect’s garden is her sketchpad and blueprints. The corporate business CEO is overseeing a large greenhouse full of different gardens and gardeners.
So, we are all gardeners. We all have some domain of responsibility.
Another way to look at our role as God’s co-creators and image bearers is to look at God’s key activities in the first couple verses of Genesis. We read:
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:1-2 NRSV).
God’s first act as Creator was to bring order to the chaos of the primordial “deep.” The first 3 days show God bringing form to the formlessness by making the environments that he will then populate with life in days 4-6. The chart below shows God separating light from darkness (day 1), sea and sky (day 2), and the fertile earth (3). Then he fills these locations with the lights of the day and night (day 4), the fish and the birds (day 5) and, finally, land animals climaxing with the creation of mankind (day 6).
|God orders (Location)||God fills (inhabitants)|
|1. Light and Dark||4. Lights of the day and night|
|2. Sea and Sky||5. Fish and birds|
|3. Fertile Earth||6. Land animals including mankind|
But that’s not all. Notice also that to the overwhelming darkness that covered the entire earth God said, “Let there be light” and “The Spirit of God hovered expectantly over the face of the mysterious, foreboding “deep waters.” So, created in God’s image we are called to carry on God’s activity by:
- moving toward places of chaos to bring redemptive order
- going boldly toward the darkness of this world and saying, “Let there be light” in Jesus’ name.
- we hover expectantly over precarious situations that look hopeless knowing the Spirit of God is about to act
- we zero in on all the empty places and find ways to fill it with God’s love and hope
So, as God’s image bearers, we all have a domain of responsibility and influence. We all live amidst chaos and disorder. We all experience darkness and people are drowning in “deep waters” all around us today. People have an emptiness in their soul they are trying to fill with anything and everything. Will we get on with our created mandate to do something about it?
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your next move in light of this high calling we have to be busy in God’s garden — this earth.