Four reasons why you should plant a garden (with your children)

If you want to understand the Bible better, if you want to become a better theologian, then certainly you should spend time studying the Bible, reading sound theological books, listening to theological lectures from RTS and other Reformed seminaries, and having conversations with your elders and other knowledgeable believers. But, if you are able, you should also plant a garden. Especially if you have children, a garden is invaluable as a discipleship tool. Here are several reasons why:

1. A garden teaches the importance and value of diligent work. Genesis 2 tells us that the first occupation was working a garden. God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it (Gen. 2:18). Thus we learn that work is a creation ordinance, given to man in his state of innocence and integrity; it is not in itself a result of the fall into sin. Yet one of the results of the fall is that we are prone to laziness and slothfulness. When God saves a man, he sets him again to work – diligent, God-honoring, others-serving work (cf. Prov. 13:4; Ecc. 9:10; Col. 3:22ff.; II Thess. 3:8-10). A garden teaches the importance of work, as well as the value of work: we are enabled by God to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor, literally. What we sow, we also reap.

2. A garden teaches the effects of sin in an immediate way – “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it…thorns and thistles it will grow for you…by the sweat of your face you will eat bread…” (Gen. 3:17-19). There’s nothing like a weed-infested garden for teaching your children that sin has consequences. Work is difficult and toilsome because of the fall, and things don’t go the way we want them to go. Things fall apart, they break, they tend toward dissolution and disintegration and disrepair. We experience this in every area of life, but a garden enables us to see it with our eyes, and feel it in our hands and between our toes.

3. A garden teaches the necessity of dependence upon God. We plant, we water, we fertilize, we weed, but it’s God who gives the growth (cf. I Cor. 3:6-7). It’s easy to remind our children that apart from God and His gracious provision, no plants will grow, no fruit will be borne. Especially is this the case if your garden is far from a water source! It’s hard in our modern world to feel dependence on God as we ought – everything we need is in the aisles of the grocery store, at the click of a button on Amazon. A garden brings us back to a more primitive state, and recalls us to that posture that we must have even as we move through the aisles and surf the web: humbly resting upon His mercy and goodness.

4. From the first three reasons, it’s pretty clear that the Bible is filled with agricultural imagery. Particularly if we live in an urban setting we can fail to understand or miss entirely the significance of this imagery. Even if we understand it intellectually, learning it existentially is a completely different thing. It’s one thing to know that rain comes down from heaven and makes the earth bear and sprout (Isaiah 55:3) – it’s another thing entirely to plant seeds, and then, after a heavy spring rain, to walk out and see the seedlings bursting out of the ground. It’s one thing to hear God say that His people will take root downward and bear fruit upward (Isaiah 37:31) – it’s another thing to watch a corn seed grow to eight feet tall with roots that even straightline winds can’t pull up. I could write another 40+ reasons why you should plant a garden, just by walking through all the passages and parables and metaphors that God uses from the garden.

Of course, the most basic reason for planting a garden is that it’s a tasty joy and satisfaction to eat the fruits and vegetables that your own hand had a part in growing. So if that’s the only reason you plant a garden, great. But as Christians, we recognize that there are more – many more. So plant a garden in order to understand the Bible in your bones, and to teach your children well the ways of the Lord.

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