By Ifeoma Tete Mbuk
â€œThen the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep itâ€.
In Genesis 2 verse 15, God clarifies why he gave man powers. At first glance, it only appears to cover what is physical and material, but with Godâ€™s spiritual revelation and other scriptures, it carries far greater implication. In the King James Version, the word meaning â€œtendâ€ or â€œcultivateâ€ is â€œdressâ€ but gradually, it was applied to applying decorative details, â€œto embellish.â€
Today, when we say that we are going to â€œdress,â€ we include both parts of that definition. We put ourselves in order and embellish how we look. In modern Bibles, â€œdressâ€ has been translated â€œtendâ€ or â€œcultivate.â€ They have subtle meanings that are slightly different from â€œdress.â€ Tend means â€œto pay attention toâ€ or â€œto serve.â€ For example, â€œI am going to tend to the dishes.â€ It means â€œto apply oneself to the care ofâ€ or â€œto manage the operations of.â€
Cultivate, which is the best of the three definitions, means â€œto put through a finishing process,â€ â€œto foster the growth of,â€ or â€œto further or encourage.â€ Neither â€œdressâ€ nor â€œtendâ€ is wrong, but â€œcultivateâ€ most accurately applies the Hebrew meaning of the original word.
There is the word â€œkeepâ€ as well. We are to â€œdress and keep.â€ Keep means to â€œguard,â€ â€œpreserve,â€ â€œbe faithful to,â€ and â€œmaintain.â€
God has given man powers to carry out the responsibility that has been given into his hands: to have dominion. Man must do the following: put what has been placed into his hands through a finishing process, watch over it, guard it, protect it, and preserve its beauty.
This was all given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a beautiful place. God let them and us know that as beautiful as the Garden was, it would not stay that way. It was subject to natural law and was going to degenerate. The Garden needed to be maintained, cultivated, dressed, and kept. That required a great deal of work. Man was not only to preserve, control, and direct it, but also to strive even to ennoble the Garden of Eden through work.
It begins to become clear that God intends mankind to make more of his environment than he has been given. God has given the powers to do that. We are to understand this not only physically, but more importantly, spiritually.
Here in Genesis, God has shown the fact that one works, the reason why one works, and the way one works all have a great deal to do with oneâ€™s spiritual development. It is important to note the difference between â€œsalvationâ€ and â€œdevelopment.â€ We are saved by grace. But if there is going to be development from where God begins whenever we first receive His Spirit, then it requires something on our part to enable the fullness of development to take place. That involves work.
Humans may be the peak of creation, but only because we have the role of stewardship â€“ we are to care for and conserve creation because it belongs to God: humans are merely caretakers of this property. Humans are co-creators with God and need to use and transform the natural world with care. Creation is made by God and is good, and so must be preserved because it has intrinsic value.
Christians believe that care for the environment and the avoidance of needless exploitation of the natural world for selfish gain will help bring about peace, harmony and justice. Ultimately, Christian ethics is rooted in the relationship with God and a Christianâ€™s relationship with God depends on how he uses creation and contributes to bringing about the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 15:21â€“22; Romans 5:12â€“21).
Love of God and love of oneâ€™s neighbour are fundamental in Christian ethics and also apply to the environment. Christmas is here once again. It is another opportunity for us Christians to show love and care for one another. Do you know that the sick, the rich, the poor, young and old, man or woman, black or white are all part and parcel of Godâ€™s creation? Therefore, it is a spiritual mandate to use the sweat of our work, our harvest, so to speak, to care for and reach out to our fellow human beings through material gifts such as food and clothing and spiritually gifts through prayer, counselling, visitation and sharing the word through bible study.
The celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is a celebration of love through Christian giving. As you reach out to others, rich or poor, and by whatever means, remember that you are exercising your role of stewardship and God given power over care of His creation as stated in Genesis 2 verse 15. Godâ€™s blessing will never depart from us as we tend, develop, guard, protect, preserve and add value to His vineyard at this Yuletide season and always.
Wishing You A Merry Xmas and A Bright and Prosperous New Year.