Gardening was the first occupation historically found in the Bible. Civilizations like the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Romans transformed the idea of monoculture farming into beautifully ornate gardens. In today’s western culture, gardening can be overlooked as a hobby of growing backyard vegetables or landscaping our yards with flowers. In Genesis 1 and 2, however, God designed gardening not as an activity but rather a lifestyle of protecting, serving, and cherishing all that lived and breathed.

Gardening is about protecting life. The Hebrew word for Garden in these first chapters is gan, which symbolizes a protected and enclosed place of life and safety. Gan comes from the root gānan, meaning, “to defend, cover, surround, to hedge about, to protect.” God used this word in 2 Kings 19:34, saying, “I will defend (gānan) Jerusalem, to save it, for my own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.” The Creator did not just create a garden that was free from harm; he established it as a house for mankind that embodied his covering and protection (Genesis 2:8). It is scientifically proven that when you visit a garden, components such as green plants, sweet floral fragrances, sounds of water, and birds fluttering in the trees calm your mind and reduce stress in your body. What you experience is the harmony and peace that God has woven into nature’s DNA.

Service is the second characteristic we receive through gardening. God is perfectly intentional in his process. Only after God placed Adam in the home of protection did he empower Adam to carry and utilize the same spirit of protection and safety. In giving us a responsibility, God reveals an aspect of his character that he desires to impart in us. The Creator blessed Adam “to dress and keep the garden” (2:15 KJV). “To dress” in Hebrew is Abad, which means, “to work, to serve, to worship, to till, to prepare and cultivate land for crops.” Because everything about life was new to Adam, God taught him–how to gather seeds, the relationship between soil and insects and birds and trees, and the nutritional value in all that grew.

In addition to Adam learning practical care for the garden, he also learned a lifestyle of cherishing his whole world. The second part of the Divine blessing, “to keep,” is the idea that man will protect all that God gives with his own life, like a shepherd watching over his flocks. God invited Adam into ruling from sacrifice and humility; Creator and human lived in a beautiful exchange of daily serving one another. Between the words on the page, you can hear God saying, “Let me show you why I made hawks with wings. Let me tell you the secrets behind every design. The light does more than help you see.” Love and gentleness grew within Adam’s heart, giving him wisdom to name all that was created, and in doing so, he worshiped and adored his Creator.

Gardening to God is never contingent on if you have a green thumb, or if you like sweating outside in the summer. Picking a crisp cucumber that you planted and cared for is rewarding and a special part of God’s design for gardening, but only a part. Within that given dedication, you discover the desire and sacrifice that the Creator has had for you since the beginning of time. Just like Adam, you are set into the garden and taught by God how to live a life that protects and cherishes all that he has made.