The Bible and Agriculture

Or What Dr. Luke has to say about Agriculture

Current day China is still a society very much built on agriculture.  70% of Chinese still make their living by doing some sort of agriculture work.  This makes agriculture a very important aspect of current day China.   The relationship between agriculture and health is also so very close and important.  For example,  lack of Vitamin A from green vegetables or other sources leads to blindness, diarrhea, colds and even death.  In fact a studies done in the 1960’s and 70’s showed that lack of Vitamin A can lead to over 40% more deaths in children under five.  Simply giving children with Vitamin A deficiency high dose Vitamin A once a month for three months lessens death by 40%.  This is an amazing statistic isn’t it?  Just this one thing can save so many lives.

There are many other diseases which are prevented just by providing good food to eat in a balanced diet.  Recent studies showed that up to 50% of children in Tibet have stunted growth due to lack of adequate amounts of food intake primarily in the form of protein.  This stunting of growth leads to premature death and mental problems compared to normal children with good nutrition. 

We are talking in this series about what Dr. Luke and his writings have to say about health.  What  does Dr. Luke in his writings have to say about the relationship between agriculture and health. Actually quite a lot.  Even though Dr. Luke was a medical doctor he appreciated that good food was and is important to having good health.    He knew that good food and eating well prevented many health problems and that good food and eating well treats diseases as well.  We have mentioned on previous talks that Dr. Luke’s ancient writings are contained in a larger writing of ancient books called the  Bible.  The Bible, just like Dr. Luke’s ancient books, has a lot to say about the relationship between agriculture and health.

The Bible says that originally work was good and pleasurable.  We know this because when the first man, whose name was Adam, was created by God, he was given work to do.  The story goes this way:  “God blessed them (that is Adam and Eve) and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’  Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that hs fruit with seed on it.  They will be yours for food…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen 1.28-31).’  This shows that in the creation of the world work was good.  It also shows that the basis of work was originally agricultural and not mechanical or even technological. 

What changed this agricultural work from being pleasurable and very good to being not pleasant for man?  The same reason that man has health care problems.  Namely that mankind chose to sin.  What does this mean?  It means that man and specifically Adam, the first created man, chose to go against what God had planned for him.  Adam and Eve had been given specific instructions not to eat from a certain tree.  All other trees and fruits they could eat from, but this one they could not.  This was to test their obedience to God.  But they failed and ate from the one tree they were told to avoid.  Why did they do this?  Adam and Eve wanted their way and not God’s.  This is sin.

 What was the result of this sin or going against God?  The ancient book of Genesis tells the story like this, ‘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). ‘

Let’s summarize these results as they are so important to all of mankind and specifically to all of mankind.  First, the ground is cursed.  Second, through painful toil you will eat of it.  Third, this will be for all of the days of your life.  Fourth, the ground will produce thorns and thistles.  Fifth, work will be hard, that is by the sweat of your brow.  Sixth and finally, you will return to the ground from which you were formed. 

Wow, this is hard.  But it is also true is it not?  Work is hard, long and painful.  Especially this is so for people doing agriculture work.  Even for farmers with very good and modern equipment this work is hard.  The ground constantly produces thorns and thistles which threaten crops.  I have never met a farmer who said, hey this work is easy, come join me.  They all say farming is very hard to do and there are many obstacles.

Now that we have seen that agricultural work is hard what can be done to make it easier?  Can anything be done?  Does the Bible have anything to say about this?  Yes it does.  The Bible does not promise that the work itself will be easy or easier but rather that our attitude towards work will change or can change.  Some time in the future the Bible promises that God will remake this whole world and all of the problems and pains of this world, such as toilsome farm and agriculture work will end.  Until then though we must endure.  The Bible though says that God will provide us with a different attitude to work which will make it easier to endure.  How does that happen?  I am glad you asked.

We can have either an attitude of hating work or looking forward to work.  Another book in the Bible called Ecclesiastes (which was written about 1,000 BC) says. ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!  Says the teacher.  Utterly meaningless!   Everything is meaningless.  What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever…Is there anything of which one can say, Look!  This is something new?  It was here already long ago; It was here before our time (Ecclesiastes 1.2-4, 10).’  This statement certainly tells how work can become old and meaningless.  But does work have to be that way?  Especially farm and agricultural work?

There are two answers to this question, that is how to have a good attitude to work?  First, we must understand when we work who we are working for and towards.  Are we working for ourselves, our family, the government to pay taxes or what.  Certainly all of these are important but we and our family all will eventually die and the government will change hands.  This is not to be cynical but realistic.  We must be able to do our work so that it has lasting value.  How can this be done?  The Bible tells us ‘that whatever we do we should do unto God. (I Corinthians 10.31).’  What does this mean?  It means that all of our work should be for God as if he were going to pay us at the end of the day.  Why does this give our work more meaning?  First, it means that it can have value after we die and not just while we are living.  Second, it we do work for God, then it has pleasure in it.  Do you remember when you first fell in love with a boy or girl or your husband or wife?  Everything you did had pleasure in it, did it not?  Why?  Because all of your efforts were to help them.  Because you loved them.  This is the same as our work being for God, however, since God loves us so very much and he never changes it will not be like our love for a man or woman which can grow cold and change or that person could die or we could fall out of love with them. God’s love for us never changes.  So our work for him can be real and fresh everyday.

The second answer as to how to have a good attitude to work is about worry.  Don’t we all worry about things?  We worry if we will have money to plant our crops this year.  We worry if it will rain and at the right time.  We worry if it will be too hot or cold.  We worry if our health will be good to plant and harvest the crops.  We worry if we will have to pay to much of our crops in taxes.  We worry if there will be a good market and price to sell our crops.  Why do we worry?  Can worry change anything?  The Bible has a lot to say about worry and how it relates to farming and agriculture.

Consider the following passage in a book written by a man named Matthew in the Bible written about the same time as Dr. Luke wrote his writings.  ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even King Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tom