Why God Wants Me to Grow Tomatoes

21 03 2012

One of my goals in life is to become completely self-sufficient. I want to grow, raise, and gather every part of my diet, make all of my own food, clothing, and household goods, and produce my own clean energy. While this sounds straightforward on paper (or a computer screen), it is going to be difficult, and sometimes my thoughts, or the comments of others, make me wonder if it is even worth it. As with so many other difficult decisions, however, the Bible has offered some applicable and interesting pieces of wisdom that I feel are reason enough to pursue such a goal, for me and for anyone who wants a happier, more natural life. Here are a few notable quotes, and a little of my own analysis (all verses are from the New International Version):

  • “To Adam he said,…’Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of 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.’ ”     ~Genesis 3:17-19
    • It was, in fact, punishment for original sin that we were made to engage in agriculture, in order to provide for our earthly needs. That being said, it was commanded by God that we do this. Though we had disobeyed him, it was his intention for us to take advantage of the natural system he had put in place, disturbing it as minimally as possible and working to live off of the land because, physically, the soil is our body’s origin and final destination.
  • ” ‘ “Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell…” ‘ ”     ~Numbers 35:34
    • The context of this quote specifically references bloodshed (i.e. warfare) in Israel as being one thing which defiles the land. It does, however, establish the importance of one’s homeland, and the nearly spiritual connection that we have with the land, both the location and the soil itself, from which we draw sustenance. This was one of the first verses I understood to have a deeper environmental meaning.
  • “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.”     ~Ecclesiastes 6:10-12
    • Here, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes establishes the importance of real, laborious work, and dismisses the idea of an economic system in which expansion and growth (of money, not plants) is the primary motive. The accumulation of wealth for its own sake is meaningless and futile, and the quote suggests an economic system primarily consisting of labor (which, drawing from other quotes in the Bible, undoubtedly means agriculture) leads to a better life and allows for a metaphoric “sweet sleep”, likely a conscience free of the guilt associated with miserliness and usury.
  • “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate–bringing forth food form the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.”     ~Psalm 104:14-15
    • This is a joyful reminder that, even in the work and toil we must do to sustain ourselves, the Hand of God is present. It highlights the interconnectivity between God all of the earth, among the living creatures on Earth, and between the biosphere and its ecosystem, and reaffirms the integral part that human beings play in sustaining and living off of this system.
  • “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”     ~1 John 2:15-16
    • Here is a quote which has been used in strong opposition to the “back-to-the-land” and environmental movements, yet is actually, in its true meaning, supportive of these fundamental mindsets. You see, the New Testament was originally written in Greek. The word used here, “world”, in Greek is κοσμος, pronounced in English “cosmos”, and is a very broadly defined word, meaning some combination of “people/the population”, “society”, and “secularism”. The meaning has nothing to do with the Earth itself nor with environmental or nature-related concerns; the word Γη (“gee”), meaning earth or soil, would have been used to convey such a meaning. Therefore, this command is not against naturalism, but rather, against becoming too tied up with sinful and secular activities (as listed: carnal cravings, lustful eyes, and boastfulness) – that is, those things which society has created which serve to separate us from God. I believe consumerism and materialism are perfect examples of the behaviors condemned by this verse.
  • “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”     ~1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
    • This is the verse that, in this regard, is closest to my heart. I happened upon it a month or two ago, and saw in it a welcomed justification for the self-sufficient life I aim to live. Very bluntly, Paul tells the Thessalonians to live a self-sufficient life (in the time before such a phrase needed to be coined, in order to describe an “alternative” lifestyle) through agriculture and homemade goods – what is meant by “work with your hands”. Moreover, he explains that the reason for this is to provide for the security of their (our) Earthly life – “so that you will not be dependent on anybody”.

It saddens me to see almost none of the wisdom contained in these verses being practiced in our society today. The blame does not lie with just one party, but with the trends, accelerated by economic growth, which have formed our world’s current political and economic systems. Most of us (myself included), if it came down to it, would not know how to provide our own food, clothing, shelter, and entertainment without the Wal-marts, grocery stores, and electronics stores there to provide for us. In just a few generations, we have almost completely lost the inherited wisdom, collected by our species through all of human history and deemed to be of the utmost importance by the Word of God, that would keep us alive if the unstable system we have created faltered or fell. I personally take these verses, with special attention to the last one, as a challenge to reawaken that knack for self-sufficiency and living off the Earth that human beings were once, and could again be, bestowed with. What do you think?

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2 responses

24 03 2012
A

Ecclesiastes 3:2
“a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot”
Still my favorite Bible verse.

24 03 2012
Alex

I completely agree, and the only reasons I didn’t include that one was 1) the whole quote is pertinent, but is very long, and 2) it covers a broader range of themes. Looking at the whole verse, though, it’s really obvious what God intended us to spend our time doing, and what decisions he foresaw us having to make for which he was trying to provide guidance: very heavily agricultural lives, honest and open human relationships (family and friends), and hard, honest work. Interestingly, all aspects of the agrarian society that, up until 100 or 150 years ago, we more or less had. I believe, in the memory of how much better our world might be if we had made different decisions, it may be “a time to mourn…”.

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