Was Jesus An Agrarian?


My sheep HEAR My voice, and I KNOW them, and they FOLLOW Me.
(John 10:27)

In my previous blog, Delmar Ain’t So Stupid, I wrote about the “dominion mandate” given by God in Genesis, and I explained that this was clearly an agrarian mandate to work the land, and care for it responsibly. All of creation shows God’s glory. We glorify Him when we choose to live within the paradigm of the mandate and work the land as co-creators with God. I am persuaded that this is the proper undergirding paradigm for living the Christian life.

For the record, I should make it clear that I do not believe for a second that agrarianism is the primary focus of Christianity. There is much, much more to the Christian life than choosing to live and work within the agrarian framework. But for Christians to ignore this aspect is a serious mistake.

Agrarianism is antithetical to the dominant “worldly” industrial system. Christians are called by God to come out of this system. Yet most modern Christians love the world and are dependent on the industrial providers and want nothing to do with the simplicity and humility and hardship that comes with living their lives and raising their families within the paradigm of the dominion mandate, as it is properly understood.

In response to my previous blog essay a person asked this question:

Was Jesus an agrarian?

I must say that I have never considered this question before. It got me to thinking. And I have concluded the following...

I would not consider Jesus Christ to have been an agrarian. Likewise, I would not consider Him to be a Christian. Other names for Jesus come to my mind and are appropriate:

My Lord and my God
King of kings
Saviour
Son of God
Redeemer
Master
Lamb of God
Messiah
Alpha & Omega
Prince of peace
Chief cornerstone
Bridegroom
Deliverer
Horn of Salvation
Light of the world
The one mediator between God and man
Lion of the tribe of Judah
Shepherd

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
(John 10:11)

There are other names for Jesus in the Bible.

But, no, I would not call him an “agrarian.”

Having said that, I would like to also point out that I would not call God the Father an agrarian either, but it was He who planted the first garden:

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden
(Genesis 2:8)

When Jesus was born, the Bible says that Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Most moderns don’t really know what a manger is. I didn’t know until I worked on a farm as a teenager. A manger is an animal feed box, typically found in a barn. He was born in an agrarian setting.

Jesus did not grow up in a city. He grew up within an agrarian culture, working with his hands, and with his father, learning to build with wood. It is probable that this family had animals and grew some of their own food. He was familiar with the cycles of sowing and reaping, with vineyards, and with sheep and shepherds and fishermen. As far as we know, Jesus lived and worked quietly within this paradigm for something like thirty years before he left to begin his ministry. This agrarian culture was a type of incubator that helped prepare Christ for the redeeming work he came to do. Later, when Jesus began his ministry, he taught his disciples using many agrarian parables, simple in the telling, but of deep spiritual significance.

People of that day did not use the word “agrarian” but for Christians living today within an industrialized culture, trying to understand how Christianity should be properly lived, agrarianism is an appropriate word. It is the opposite of apostate Industrialism.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, summed it up nicely:

”Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

10 comments:

ajs said...

Amen, Amen...preach on :)

Michael Bunker said...

Excellent answer.

rob said...

Very well said. Agrarian is a term for those of us who dwell earthly and definitely not for Master and Creator of it all. Very well said!

Ralph in AZ said...

I think that Jesus utilized "agrarian" terms not because he was familiar or even comfortable with them but because his audience was. When his audience was agrarian, he used agrarian parabols. When his audience was fisherman, he used fishing parabols. When his audience was Jewish, he used language Jews would relate to.

My point is that Jesus tailored his message to the audience , not for his comfort.

As an aside, it is for this reason that I think modern people sometimes have a difficult time understanding some of the gospel scriptures. A person of Nazerath would understand clearly what happens when seed is sown on different types of soil and could make the inferences needed for the lesson easily. We modern types might need some explanation in agronmy first!

JD said...

Hi Herrick,
I really enjoy your blog and am a budding agrarian myself (my wife says if I ever have a blog it should be called the wannabe agrarian) and I wanted to know how much land you thought would be necessary to provide the vegatables/fruit for a family of four. Of course, I understand that fertility of land will cause that to vary somewhat, but some ballpark figure would be helpful. I currently live in suburbia on about 1/4 of an acre and grow some stuff (mainly hydroponics), but I'm looking into getting some land in the near future.

Deb said...

Herrick,
It's nice to see you back to lengthy posts again. Congratulations on your birthday and finishing up the book.

In addition, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the comments you've made at Tom's and Michael's blogs the past few days. You expressed what was on my mind far better than I ever could have. Thank you.

Herrick Kimball said...

JD-

I think you would get different answers to this if you asked different people. My recommendation would be two acres minimum of open land. That would give you room for a large garden, fruit trees, brambles, bees, chickens, a pig, a goat. It would also allow you room to rotate your garden around (something I'll be writing about soon).

Personally, my dream acreage would be around 40 to 80 acres with 75 to 80 percent wooded (for hunting, firewood, and marketable timber).

Anonymous said...

Herrick - I like the dimensions of your dream acreage. My thoughts exactly. I think the verse from St. Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:11-12) sums up how we should live. That's just my opinion, of course. That said, we reap what we sow - as the state of the world's economy and the reasons behind its implosion prove.

Southern Agrarian said...

You should check out the introduction to the book I'll TAKE MY STAND: THE SOUTH AND THE AGRARIAN TRADITION by the Southern Agrarians - http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/White/anthology/agrarian.html

Maybe you could do a post on it here and let more people know about it?

Michael said...

I concur with your theory. I would like to put forth this thought regarding Jesus not being agrarian:
To be agrarian as Jesus would have been, would require that he live his whole life, birth to death, devoted to working the land. This would have been contrary to his mission. So, he had to grow within the support system that existed around the agrarian center. This allowed him more contact with a greater number of people and also allowed him to depart the world at an early age having fully accomplished his mission.