The Lost Art of Husbandry

The Angelus (L’Angelus) by Jean-François Millet

Last week (3/7/14) on Christian Farm and Homestead Radio Scott Terry, Richard Grossman and I talked about the subject of Husbandry. It is a subject that is often not discussed and I am afraid that even if it is discussed with the definition of “husbandry” having changed over time the conversation inevitably will head in a wrong direction. Key to how one views most anything is related to how it is defined and that is so true with the subject of husbandry. We had a great discussion and while we may have gone off on a few rabbit trails, albeit they usually were at least loosely connected to the subject, even if really loose, it got me to think about a subject I had more taken for granted than taken the time to think much about. Thus, here are some thoughts on the subject of husbandry that I decided I would put down in writing. You can also hear the discussion from last week here: Christian Farm and Homestead Radio on Husbandry.

Part of seeking to hold a Christian view of agrarianism, which I and others seek to do, requires one to stop and see what God’s word says about the subject, truly any subject, and in this case the subject is “husbandry”. In seeking to do this I started by looking up passages that dealt with husbandry or being a husbandman and found a number of them. They either speak of one that raises and cares for animals, and such, or speak of God, and Christ, as the One that cares for His people, His creation. What I discovered was enlightening, at least to me, with regards to how we should see the art of husbandry and thus how we are to care for what God has given us to be stewards of.

As far as passages that speak of God the Father as one who cares for all that is His John 15:1 says:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

There is also James 5:7 which says:

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

Also, in 1 Corinthians 3:9 it speaks of us as being God’s husbandry:

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

What is important in all of this is that not only do John 15:1 and James 5:7 use the same English word and 1 Corinthians 3:9 use a similar English word but the Greek word is also the same in the John and James passages and it is a similar form of the word in the 1 Corinthians passage. While this may not seem like much since in just reading the passages it is clear they are similar. Where the importance reveals itself is when you read Genesis 9:20, which says:

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

From this you find the following:

Not only is the same English word used in this passage but if you look in the Septuagint (LXX), which is the Old Testament in Greek, you find the word used in Gen 9:20 is the same Greek word that is used in John 15:1 and James 5:7 and a form of that used in 1 Cor 3:9.

Ok, so what does this all mean or is it just an exercise in looking up words. What we should see and what should affect how we live and care for God’s creation is that just as God is the Husbandman over all creation we are to be husbandman over the creation He has given us to care for and in much the same manner. If this does not give you pause just think about the implications to how we are to live think and pray about it again. The implication is that we are to love what we care for as much as God loves His creation, at least to the ability of a fallible human, but one indwelled as one of His with His Spirit. This does not mean we all become vegetarians, since then we still kill and eat the greens, but it informs how we are to care for and even love that which will one day be food.

We also should also see that there is a level in which we are to care for what we are called to steward in a manner as Christ did for that which he is over. Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11 &14) and while the word husbandman is not used here we should see that it carries with it the same understanding. Not only are we to care for what we are stewards of we are to do so in a way that conveys the idea of giving of ourselves and truly knowing our charges.

Thus being called by God to care for His creation in a manner that reflects His care for it is a call for all His children to willingly seek to fulfill. This is not some weird “greenie” stance on the environment but is a position that says; while all of God’s creation has distinct purposes the fact that, for instance, ones animals may be food in the future does not mean we are to treat them as simply objects to fulfill an end but as that which God has given us to care for.

Another aspect of husbandry that we discussed was simply in how the word has been redefined or at best manipulated over time.

For example, Wikipedia defines Animal Husbandry as such:
Animal husbandry is the management and care of farm animals by humans for profit, in which genetic qualities and behavior, considered to be advantageous to humans, are further developed. The term can refer to the practice of selectively breeding and raising livestock to promote desirable traits in animals for utility, sport, pleasure, or research, but also refers to the efficient exploitation of a species in agriculture advantageous to humans.

While Webster’s Online defines it today as such:
The Activity of raising plants or animals for food
1. archaic :  the care of a household
2:  the control or judicious use of resources :  conservation
3 a :  the cultivation or production of plants or animals : agriculture
b :  the scientific control and management of a branch of farming and especially of domestic animals

But if one goes back to the Webster’s 1828 dictionary you find a slightly different view than Wikipedia or Webster’s today:
HUS’BANDRY, n. The business of a farmer, comprehending agriculture or tillage of the ground, the raising, managing and fattening of cattle and other domestic animals, the management of the dairy and whatever the land produces.
1. Frugality; domestic economy; good management; thrift. But in this sense we generally prefix good; as good husbandry.
2. Care of domestic affairs.

The key difference I see when going from Webster’s in 1828 to Wikipedia is the ends, which inevitably defines the means. Thus in 1828 the focus was the management & care of animals and tillage but has now moved, as we see in Wikipedia, to a focus on profit. Part of this change also includes the influence of what is called science but as we have seen with GMO’s and other monstrosities developed in the name of progress is that it is more of an attempt to be God.

Since definitions do make a difference it is important to see, even if it is nuanced and slight, the move from care and management to “scientific control” and “profit.” This does not mean a Christian agrarian mindset is anti-profit but profit is not to be the driving all encompassing influence, stewardship is. If profit becomes the goal, as it is quite often today, then the means to get there will be to do whatever seems most beneficial to make the sought after profit. However, if care and management of God’s creation, and therein glorifying God, is ones chief goal then one will often seek a different path than those seeking primarily a profit.

If we begin to see caring for God’s creation as part of being God’s ambassadors that are called to care for His creation, as He does, we will begin to make different decisions and become true husbandman as God desires us to be. We may even take directions that those around us may see as less “efficient” but we do so in the effort to best care for what God has given us to be a husbandman over. This does not mean we are to not to seek to be efficient but efficiency , or what is seen as efficient, is not blindly going after at the expense of being faithful and caring stewards.

Lastly, on the show we did touch on family and other topics that in many ways also relate to this area of husbandry. I wonder how astray we have gone from being husbandmen in the biblical sense as we have strayed from being the husbands we are called to be by God. Think about it this way; God calls husbands to care for their wives as God cares for his church (Eph 5:25), which we as believers are part of, so we should care for what God has given us stewardship over in like manner. Thus as our view of being husbands, and of marriage, strays from God’s standard so does our concept of being husbandman stray from what God desires us to be. I could spend a lot of time here but the basic idea is that as we redefine marriage and all aspects that relate to it there is an affect that spreads and goes to even how we care for God’s creation.

I probably could go on for a while but I think you get the idea. We as God’s children are to take our direction from God and His word in all areas of life and not man. We need to regain the art of husbandry. I say “art” because while there is an aspect that is learned and can be taught there is also a part that simply needs to be worked at and developed. Let what we learn and do be first and foremost directed by God, His word and His Spirit such that as we become the husbandman we are called to be we will mot glorify God.

I pray that this has been helpful and I do encourage you to listen to the show where we discussed this as Scott Terry and Richard Grossman had much more to add to what I have said above. Here is the show link again: Christian Farm and Homestead Radio on Husbandry

Comments

  1. Bart Murnion says:

    Good word Tony. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. Leigh says:

    Excellent post. I’m adding it to my “Homesteading Viewpoints” link list!

    When I first came to know the Lord I shared the gospel with my dad. His response was that he was against Christianity because it taught human dominance over the earth which had lead to it’s environmental destruction. That puzzled me because I’d never heard it before. I was young in the faith and didn’t know how to respond. In more recent years I’ve sent him literature on Christian agrarianism but I don’t think he hears me. Of course, they only listen to NPR, and that doesn’t help.

  3. Tony says:

    Thanks for the input Bart and Leigh.

    It is sad that Christians often miss the boat on environmental issues because they have so compartmentalized their Christianity and have lost the truth that God speaks to all areas of life and does so authoritatively. They have instead sided with “conservatism” and in many cases lost the fight because we do not offer an alternative – which I think Christian Agrarianism does. It is not enough to say someone is wrong, even if they are, as that is only half the battle. We need to offer alternatives and answers and God’s word does that even if it takes some diligent work to flesh it out.

    We need to do our part and be faithful and as consistent as we can be and also not be ashamed to cite God’s word as our standard.

  4. Tanmay Roy says:

    Same to ‘Bart Murnion’ Good word Tony. Looking forward to reading more.

  5. [...] is called husbandry and directly relates to the God.   I wrote on this subject some time back, The Lost Art of Husbandry, and we had a discussion regarding the subject on Christian Farm and Homestead Radio but in a [...]

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