“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15 ESV
Since the time of Adam, one of our roles on earth has been to tend and till the land. While in the garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed a life of relative ease and comfort. When they left the garden, though, they came to know the meaning of honest work. The earth was covered with thistles and noxious weeds. They ate their bread by the sweat of their brow, as we learn in Genesis.
Modern culture often seeks to denigrate or avoid manual labor in any form. We have become a society addicted to pleasure and entertainment. But gardening offers us the same tangible and intangible rewards it offered to Adam and Eve, which are:
• A deep understanding and appreciation for the seasons and cycles of the earth. As we tend the earth, we come to see metaphors between the seasons of the earth and our own life cycle of birth, growth, death, and resurrection. The miracle of growth we see in the garden can strengthen our knowledge of the reality of a loving God.
• A sense of gratitude for the blessings of God and an appreciation for the beauty of the earth. We have become removed from the source of our daily sustenance as refrigerated trucks and commercial factories supply packaged foods to the local grocery store. Gardening restores the understanding that everything we have comes from God.
• Through gardening, we learn the value of an honest day’s work. Few things in life are more satisfying than spending a day working the soil. At day’s end, a sore back and a few blisters on the hands are evidence of our efforts. Sleep comes quickly and easily.
• We learn the principle of accountability. Although we have no control over the whims of weather, our gardening success is largely determined by our efforts. If we fail to water the garden, we get no harvest.
• We learn to be good stewards of the earth. In a time when the frantic calls of environmentalism clash with consumerism, we gain a solid, practical understanding of what it means to truly care for the earth.
• We learn self-sufficiency, particularly if our harvests are sufficient to put up for winter use. When the entire family works together in the garden, we learn unity and cooperation.
• We gain physical health and an appreciation for the miracle of our bodies. Gardening is a rigorous, active hobby that provides excellent exercise. And people who love gardening usually develop a love of good food, as well. A diet based on whole foods naturally improves our health.
Children, especially, benefit from experiences in the garden. Rural homesteaders generally find plenty of opportunities to teach children the value of work, but those of us living in urban and suburban settings must look for work projects for our kids. Even a small garden can teach children the value of work and the satisfaction that comes from effort. In a day when children are continually confronted with the temptations of entitlement and frivolity, a garden is a grounding experience that offers a sense of peace and well-being.