Monday, September 7, 2015

Our Work Matters

We had a great sermon this weekend about work as an extension of our worship to God. Pastor Steer at Autumn Ridge Church reminded us that God commanded Adam to work in the Garden of Eden.

I especially like that fact that the initial concept of work was an agricultural endeavor. It was both plant and animal based.

One of the first tasks that Adam was given was to name all the animals. I do not think this was a shallow task like calling all the beagles Snoopy or the cats Garfield. I think this was a deep intellectual excercise of organizing the taxonomy of "all creatures great and small".

Here is why I say that...

Scripture says in Genesis 2:19, that God brought the animals to Adam to be named. Let's think about this a little, earlier in verse 19 it says God formed the animals out of the dust of the ground (literally the elements of his creation). He designed their unique DNA according to his master plan. He then introduced his designs to Adam, he brought each unique living  creature from the creation he called "good" to Adam.

Remember that Adam was the pinnacle of God's creation and made in His image. I do not think this this naming process was metaphorical, I think it was a real intensive process, a boot camp of sorts, to give Adam an orientation to creation.

This must have been intellectually challenging work. Scripture does not say, but this could have taken years or even decades. The time line says this was before Eve was created, so Adam was alone from a human perspective. But not really alone, as he had God for his constant companion, teacher, and mentor. Unlike Moses who could never see God, because of his fallen state, Adam had intimate fellowship with God.  It says he walked with God in the garden.

This process could have been  as deep as any scientific analysis today. College students are often called upon to learn the structures of molecules in organic chemistry or the genus species of animal and plant life in biology and horticulture classes. This is the grammer of these subjects. If you had direct access to the creator and if you had a perfect mind, the possibilities are endless and fun to consider.

God showed Adam how to organise and name his creation. Names were very significant in the early world, as they are today, full of meaning. This was before the fall so creation was perfect, Adam was perfect, with all the intellectual capacity of a perfect mind. Maybe not as wise as Solomon but possibly a peer intellectually.

Isn't it interesting that when scripture describes the wisdom of Solomon one of the most prominent items listed when it comes to his intellectual capacity is his organization and description of plant life and his teachings about animal life. See I Kings 4:33. I think there is a direct correlation between these original tasks of Adam, and Solomon's interest and proficiency in these areas.

Could it be that the next item on the list for Adam to do was to organize the taxonomy of the plant life. Due to sin and the fall, Adam may have lost the capacity to do this task, and it may have been left undone until Solomon was given his miraculous gift of wisdom. Scripture is silent on this, but I think this is likely.

Ok that was fun to consider, what does all this have to do with me today and farming?
  1. God taught man to work in the context of farming. I find the farm to be a great teacher of the principles of life and work. It is a very complete experience from seed to table. In our family this even includes the marketing and support of 100s of families who are our customers. this is a high calling in deed and one we take very seriously.
  2. Farming at its core is an intellectual exercise. It is methodical, organized and complex. If you really want to understand and excel at your craft, it requires a lifetime of study and learning, which then is passed on to the next generation.  It is a tragedy that many of the skills and values of farming are being lost. One of our roles at the Farmer's Market and with our workers is to teach others about gardening to stem the tide.
  3. Farming follows the Biblical mandate to "fill the earth and subdue it". To "rule over creation". Ideally, this is not implemented in a heavy handed approach. We need to be "easy on the land" and leave our water, soil and biome (native life) better than we found it. When God says take dominion over the earth, I think he means the farm is our partner and we are its steward, not its task master. The farmer can come along side creation, understand how to conduct our business in synergy with the principles God has put in place and his designs for the plant and animal kingdom. This is true farming.
  4. Farming can be missional. Our daughter Jenna, managed a team of inner city youth for the Atlanta Youth Project this last summer. She was manager of their outreach called God's Farm, where they bring middle and high school youth to the farm to learn life skills and deepen their relationship with God. Growing food is the universal language in any culture.
  5. Eric Little in the movie Chariots of Fire said, "when I run I feel God's pleasure". We feel like that about farming. When the farm is right, we feel the pleasure and presence of God. I hope most of us can say that about our work.

I sometimes walk the fields at the end of a busy day, planning in my minds eye what we will need to do the next day. Planting this new row, weeding that area, and harvest these baby greens or those candy carrots. I would often take my children when they got older, even teenagers, along on these walks. We would walk hand in hand in the garden basking in the pleasure of God. Must have been a dark day when Adam could no longer do that.

Pastor Steer said that work, in our case farming, is restoring creation to its original perfect state. I believe that and can get very passionate about the farm and our work because of it. He also said it is important to have a theology of work or progress spiritually will be limited to Sunday and Christmas. I think this is incredibly important and is largely overlooked in our culture.

Enjoy a rest from your work on Labor Day!

If you want to find me, I'll be in the garden.

1 comment:

  1. Good insight to the work that is involved in keeping God's creation going. He has given us a huge responsibility and we need to be faithful. Work is not looked upon as a positive in our day but if taught the purpose of it there is much reward through the harvest and results of our labor.