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Stewardship and Proper Place

You don’t belong here, both the sound and the feel of the weeds coming up by the roots are deeply satisfying. The slow crackles and tiny pops of the roots breaking free of the soil and signal a job done right. Equally frustrating, the sharp quick snap of a weed breaking off in the stem from a too aggressive or too impatient puller. 

Whenever my knees ache, my back is stiff, and my fingernails are caked with dirt from pulling weeds, I can’t help but hear God’s words to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from 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” (Gen 3:17-19). 

A garden certainly proves these things true. It is hard work. It seems like the weeds grow faster and better than the vegetables. And I’ve certainly sweated my fair share trying to keep the garden in production. 

Weeding the garden is a constant task. It’s shocking how easily, quickly, and vigorously weeds spring up. But they don’t belong there. At least, I don’t want them there. I used to think that thorns and thistles were a result of sin entering the world. That they shouldn’t exist at all (I could probably make a pretty good argument for that to be the case), and were somehow the result of Adam and Eve’s actions. But sin didn’t create anything in the garden. It blurred boundaries. Thorns and thistles, and any other manner of weed, aren’t bad, they just don’t belong in the garden. They have their own proper place. 

“But sin didn’t create anything in the garden. It blurred boundaries.”

Reading the creation accounts in Genesis it stands out how important proper place is. God did a great deal of separating and creating “according to kinds.” Everything has a place where it belongs. God looked at the kinds of things and the places that he created, and it was all very good. 

As I pull the invasive weeds from around my tomatoes and beans. It begins to become clear that proper place is the essence of stewardship. Caring for God’s creation is obviously not about exploitation, but it’s not about manipulation either. It’s about recognizing and honoring the proper place of all that God has created. 

Pulling up weeds in a row of tomato plants. Image: Yuris

“Our role as stewards of God’s creation is not to discover and foster something simply for its usefulness to us. It is to realize that everything has a place within God’s good world and to create space for that thing to flourish, to be that thing that God created.”

Our role as stewards of God’s creation is not to discover and foster something simply for its usefulness to us. It is to realize that everything has a place within God’s good world and to create space for that thing to flourish, to be that thing that God created. Grimacing as the muscles of my back contract and I stand up, I realize that proper place isn’t just for creation. Proper place is how God intends for us to live life as well. The writer of Ecclesiastes understood this. There is a time and a season for all things. 

The fact that sometimes things grow where they do not belong has caused me to ask that question in a variety of areas of my life. What things have invaded my relationships with my wife, with my sons? Have I been careful to recognize what belongs in my work ethic, whether it is motivations or goals? Where have I allowed things to flourish where they do not belong? And when I find things that do not belong, do I carefully uproot them?

My garden is my own making, but it’s often where things make sense. God often communicates through nature, about himself and about ourselves. Nature isn’t a commodity that we develop for our own uses. It’s also the classroom in which we can learn how to live in our own proper place.