Blog - Doing Earthwork
God as FarmerMonday, February 17, 2014
In a Super Bowl ad, Ram Trucks played Paul Harvey’s speech, "So God Made a Farmer.” Harvey began like this:
"And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer. God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.’ So God made a farmer.” (link)
That farmer, like all other human workers, was made in God’s likeness. God himself was the first agriculturalist. "Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden” (Gen. 2:8). So every farmer and gardener in the world is simply carrying on the kind of work God himself set about doing from the beginning. "And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Gen. 2:9).
In his book, God the Worker, Robert Banks points out that, "The work of establishing the garden is not something God leaves to another or engages in at a distance. It is God who does the work, with bare hands, so to speak. . . . What was the role of human beings in the garden? It was ‘to till it and keep it’ (Genesis 2:15, NRSV) and ‘to freely eat of every tree’ (Genesis 2:16, NRSV) except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Their responsibility was to cultivate and care for it and to enjoy its diverse products.”
In the U.S. each of us consumes more than 100 pounds of potatoes a year, around 20 gallons of milk, and some 175 pounds of red meat and poultry. Our very lives depend on what farmers grow and farm workers harvest. As those made in God’s image, the work they do resembles his work. He plants (Matt. 15:13), waters (Ps. 65:9) prunes (Jn.15:2), and harvests (Mt. 9:38).
Jesus, in his metaphors and parables, revealed truths about God and his kingdom in agricultural terms. "I am the true vine,” he said, "and my Father is the gardener” (Jn. 15:1). As gardener or farmer, God sows the seed of his word. The seed falls on various kinds of human heart-soil: hard, rocky, weedy, and productive. Jesus told vineyard stories. That generous employer who paid those who worked just an hour the same wage to those who worked all day . . . was a farmer. That vineyard owner who rented his land to others and left on a journey, only to have the tenants beat his servants and kill his son . . . was a farmer.
Some today look down on farmers. But as one T-shirt reminds us, "I farm, you eat.” And as a sign proclaims, "If you ate today, thank a farmer.” And thank God, the prototype farmer, for making human farmers who continue doing what he began so long ago.