A Taste of Tending to Eden
Written by Plant With Purpose on February 19, 2010 in General
The following excerpt is from pages 26 to 28 in Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by our Executive Director, Scott Sabin.
This book helps connect the dots between poverty and the environment, and makes the biblical case for how as Christians it is our job to care for the earth. Tending to Eden also comes with a creation care Bible study, so you and your congregation or Bible study can more deeply explore and apply this concept.
You can purchase the book through our website here: http://www.plantwithpurpose.org/page/64/tending-to-eden.html.
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“One evening in the early days of our work in Haiti, several of
us sat on the front porch of a guesthouse in Grand Colline, [Haiti]
exchanging stories and watching fireflies. Pere Albert, the Haitian
Episcopal priest with whom we partnered, came up the path from
the vocational school building, where he lived, to join us.
The conversation turned to his testimony. He told us how
happy he was that God had given him a task to do. “God gives
each of us something to do for him,” he said. “It’s as if a boss gathered
together a group of his workers, and he turned to each one
and said, ‘I have a very important job for you.’” With childlike
glee he exclaimed, “It makes me happy that God wants to work
with me. I feel excited!”
Then he asked, “Can you imagine how you’d feel if, when the
boss got to you, he skipped you because he had nothing for you
For the first time, it dawned on me how terrible it must feel to
believe you have nothing to contribute, to feel you are and always
will be completely dependent on the goodwill of outsiders. The
good news, implicit in the Mathew 25 parable, is that everyone
has been given talents they can work with. We all have something
to contribute to the kingdom of God. Each of us has an important
role to play. This is news we need to hear for ourselves and share
with others, because it is significant and too often neglected.
The lie of the world, reinforced by the media and believed by
millions, is that the poor are worthless. The global economic system
measures worth in dollars—you are paid according to how
society values your contribution. The message is that as a Haitian
farmer, no matter how bright you are, and no matter how hard
you work, you will never be worth more than a few hundred dollars
We need to defeat the lie that says worth is measured in dollars.
Sadly, the poor and many of those who try to help them have
unknowingly bought into this lie. For the poor, it is manifested in
a lack of self-confidence, self-esteem, and initiative. For those
seeking to help, it manifests itself in condescension and patronizing
attitudes. Unfortunately, when outsiders offer help, whether through foreign
aid, short-term missions, or donations, we often reinforce this
lie. We bring used clothes that put local tailors out of business and
give away free food that undercuts the local farmers. We construct
buildings for people, putting local masons and carpenters out of
work and implicitly sending the message that it takes outsiders to
get things done. We may even encourage small businesses based
on models that work in the United States, but because we don’t
understand the culture and local economics, these businesses fail.
And that failure reinforces the lie that the local people are incapable
The elders from an evangelical church in a small village in Mexico
approached me about the construction of a new church building.
A concrete foundation had been poured, and had been sitting
there for years. When I asked why they’d not started building it,
one of the elders told me, “We have been waiting for you to come
do it for us.”
I don’t mean to disparage anyone who gives to the poor. We
are commanded to do so. There are times when a handout is the
most important thing a person can receive. People need assistance
when they are sick, or after a disaster, or helpless. Children who
have no families clearly need someone to care for them.
But if we do for others what they can and should do for themselves,
we rob them of their dignity and reinforce the lie that they
have nothing to offer. We create dependency.
A story is told of travelers who come into a community during
a famine and ask for something to eat. They are told there is nothing.
The travelers take out a pot and begin to make soup by boiling
some stones. When asked about it, they explain that they are
making “stone soup” and only need a bit of garnish to improve it.
One by one everyone in the village brings something to contribute.
In the end a fine stew is made, with everyone eating their fill.
Similarly, the members of a community often have the materials
and resources needed to change their situation. Sometimes people
just need a catalyst and a little organization to create something far
better than any of them could have imagined.”