The Dangers of Christian Agriculture

I am a very passionate promoter of Christian agriculture. I love farming. I believe that it is something God calls His people to (in a general sense, not every individual) and that it provides the opportunity for an integrated lifestyle of worship, work, family, and ministry. This is part of the message of my book, Born-Again Dirt, and since writing it I have talked to many, many Christians who are beginning to care for and work the land to some degree or another. I am very excited about the work the Lord is doing in the hearts of His people to give them a desire for taking back creation stewardship for His glory.
Recently, however, the Lord has begun to show me some of the dangers and traps associated with Christian agriculture. As with most anything in life, we can so easily take things that are good and run with them until we take our eyes off of Christ and fall off the straight path. So in this post I want to briefly share a few ‘dangers’ I think we should guard against as born-again farmers:
1. Pride in Living a “Superior Christian Life”
       Farming does not automatically make us better Christians. Indeed, there are many benefits to the lifestyle of agriculture that can help facilitate Christ-centered living, but farming itself is not some higher Christian calling that takes us to the next level spiritually. I have even heard of stories where, when not done prudently, returning to the land and homesteading has torn families apart. Farming is something that we must do because that is what God has called us to, not because we think it will fix all our problems and make us happy. Because I love farming and am passionate about sharing the glories and benefits of it, even comparing it with other occupations, I have to guard against causing other brothers and sisters in Christ to feel inferior because they don’t farm. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14
2. Trust in Self and Self-sufficiency
       One of the attractions of farming is that it allows us to work for ‘ourselves’, and have more control over what we do and how we spend our time. It also allows us to produce a lot of what we need for ourselves (in terms of food and fuel) and be less dependent on buying things from others. However, while we are enjoying trying to be a have a more sustainable and self-sufficient farm we can easily fall into the trap of individualism, selfishness, and isolationism. And sometimes, while we may not be doing it as individuals, we may be guilty of doing it as a family. We need to realize that one of the main goals of our pursuit of sustainability and individual/family agrarian productiveness is not so we don’t have to rely on others, but rather so that we can be in a position to help “carry each other’s burden’s” as God calls us to. God has created us to need one another in the body of Christ. Thus, while it is a good thing to seek to be independent of unbelievers and un-godly systems we must realize that we as Christian believers and families are intended to function together as the body of Christ, needing each other in order to be effective. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”” 1 Corinthians 12:21
3. Legalism and Trust in Methods
       As ‘born-again’, Christian farmers it is important how we farm because we should recognize that we are accountable to God for how we care for his creation. But we need to guard against becoming too caught up in attaching the name of Christ to any particular method. To be sure, we need to be purposeful that the methods and practices we use honor the Lord, but that doesn’t mean they are the only, or even the best, way for every farm to bring Him glory. If I have found that a particular gardening method is very fruitful and easy, and seems to honor God’s design in Creation, then I can share it with others, but I shouldn’t start telling people, “If you are a Christian, then this is the gardening method you should use if you want God to bless you.” We must beware of developing formulas and falling into legalism where we attribute our farming ‘righteousness’ to a particular set of practices. It is God and God alone who blesses our farms and produces fruit. The way we farm should flow forth from a love for God and a passion to subject everything we do to the authority of Christ. And I don’t think this would result in every born-again farm looking and operating exactly the same way.
4. Becoming a Workaholic
       Farming involves a lot of work, as many of us know. If we want God to bless us as farmers we must be diligent in our work. There are animals to feed, weeds to cultivate, barns to build, customers to serve, crops to pick, fences to repair . . . and the list goes on and on.  Work is a gift of God and can bring much satisfaction and fulfillment. But farm work, although demanding, is not the only thing God calls us to in life. There are wives to love, children to raise, neighbors to help, messages to write, hospitality to show, fellowship to enjoy, and souls to win. The beauty of farming is that many of these things can be integrated into the life and work of the farm. But I find that they can easily suffer from it as well. I have to remind myself on occasion that my success is not rated by what I can physically achieve in a given day. Let us guard against becoming Christian farm-aholics, and make sure we focus on sowing into the relationships in our lives as well as in our fields.
5. Considering “Simple living” as a Means to Holiness
       Many Christians move to the country and take up farming/homesteading because they want to get away from the fast-paced, busy life of the city. The simple life of the farm can help many of us focus on what is really important in life by removing many of the distractions of the modern age. Some of us may even dabble with ‘off-grid’ living. But a danger I would caution us against here is falling into the trap of viewing simple living as a means to holiness. Although there are benefits to being free from some of the luxuries and conveniences of the world, they do not equal righteousness. We are not automatically more honoring to God just because we grow a garden, cut our own firewood, or milk our own cow. Honoring God starts with the heart and those things are merely fruit. Are not many pagans doing those same things today? However, they are often doing it to feel better about themselves, not to honor God.
6. Judging other Farmers we consider “Worldly”
       It is very easy, especially as we become more passionate about trying to honor the Lord in the way that we farm, to look down upon what we would consider ‘worldly’ Christian farmers. Many of us have studied, prayed, and been convicted about the way that we farm, but we can subsequently begin to think that anyone who doesn’t farm like we do must not really love Jesus. While it is fine and good to discuss the Biblical merits of this or that farming method, we must be very careful to judge the hearts of other farmers using our own standards. Only God knows the hearts of men. And at whatever point we judge another, we are guilty. Do you farm organically and think that industrial farmers are greedy? Well, since no one on earth is perfect, they probably are. But that same greed lies in your heart too, no matter how you farm. The Christian life is a journey of sanctification. None of us have arrived at a place where we perfectly honor God in our farming. We all have growing and learning and repenting to do. We need to show grace to one another, holding firmly to the truth while guarding against looking down upon brothers or sisters in Christ just because they are on a different part of the journey. Our goal should be to share our testimony of where God has brought us and what he has shown us and encourage each other in the right direction, which is Jesus Christ.
7. Worship of Farming
       As with many things in life I can easily allow farming to become an idol in my heart. Because it is such a major part of my daily life and object of my energies, it can quickly consume more of my heart than it should. I love farming! But woe to me if I should allow my care for the land to become my focus rather than my commitment to Christ! Agriculture should not be the center of my life, Christ should. Do I feel more of a bond with a fellow farmer than I do with a fellow follower of Jesus? Am I more willing to stand up for good farming stewardship than for the Gospel of Christ? That should give me a clue as to where my heart really lies. And cause me to fear. May I seek first the Kingdom of God. We as Christians should be some of the most passionate farmers in the world. Not because we just really, really love to get our hands dirty. But because we fiercely love the Savior of our souls and Creator of the world and farm wholeheartedly for Him.

16 thoughts on “The Dangers of Christian Agriculture

  1. That was very well put and could actually be applied to many areas of our lives I think and not just farming.

    One area I think we also need to be careful of is the aspect you cover of being independent of unbelievers and un-godly systems. We can never be fully independent of un-godly systems and to label people as unbelievers is perhaps unfair at times. Like you said, no one knows the heart of a person and we do not know how near or far people are from the Lord, but even so we should be helping them along the journey to Him and we cannot do that by being independent of them. There are many instances in the bible of where “ungodly” people have helped the saints, King Artaxerxes helped Nehemiah to get to Jerusalem to repair the walls, several times Paul is rescued by those in authority from rioters and the list goes on. We are meant to be in the world just not of it, and as Paul said if we were to be independent of all unbelievers we would have to leave the world (1 Corinthians 5:10). I guess we have to guard our heart against superiority in any of its forms.

  2. This might be my favorite post of yours yet, and several of your points strike a cord with me. We are in the initial process of starting our farmstead, and I often catch myself getting caught up in the details, planning and worrying of “making it work” instead of approaching our dream with an attitude of humbleness, expectation and prayer. I could easily succumb to any of the traps you mentioned, instead of keeping my eyes fixed on my Savior and relying on Him for strength and direction as I should. Thanks for a much needed reminder of what is really important, as we seek our Lord wholeheartedly and look forward to what He will do in our lives and in our farmstead.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post. It came at just the right time. As city folks, we have been dealing with much criticism from well-meaning believers because we have not made any plans to sell our home and move to the country to take dominion and live off the land. Neither my husband or I feel called to do that at this point in our lives, but we have had to listen to some pretty unkind remarks because of it.
    The Lord needs believers in both the city and the country. I will gladly buy farm fresh food from Christian farmers, but would hope they understand that not all of us can do or should do what they are doing. I sincerely appreciate your insightful comments on this issue.

    Victoria

    • And I appreciate your comments, Victoria. I’ve had to give up doing a lot of those sorts of things because my husband doesn’t feel called to do it. I think God is more concerned that I respect my husband rather than how many eggs I can collect.

  4. We just found your website and are very encouraged by your focus on working the land for the glory of God. This is a very challenging article, as the enemy loves to take something good and make it work against the Lord.

    We are a family of eight who moved to our new 20 acre homestead in the boonies just over a year ago. We live off the grid in a tiny house (converted semi trailer) and are working to grow as much of our own food as possible.

    Thank you for speaking for the Truth!

  5. Wonderfully written and timely article Noah! I am amazed at the insight and fruitfulness of your life and your listening to the Spirit! May the Lord bless you this coming season of “rest”.

    Hope to see your family soon.

  6. Those are good warnings Noah. Often in an effort to do what is good and correct we can have a tendency to make what we are doing that which ends up being worshiped instead of keeping in mind that what we are doing is to be worship itself and thus always God focused. When we loose sight of why we do something, to honor and glorify God, we often go astray and end up making ourselves the center of what we do.

  7. I have been googling the net for information on christ centered farming and came across your blog, thank you for the insight and encouragement. i am from a tiny island in the pacific ocean called fiji. blessings.

  8. I have searched for three years now (since I began my college career in the agricultural sciences) for a Christian missionary based farming resource. I graduate with a Bachelors degree in Agriculture Production and Management in 2012 and I am just now coming across this blog. I bought the book last week and it is blessing my soul! Everything that you have written matches the information and support that I have been longing for. My fiance and I will be married in June and we are starting a small farm that will hopefully turn into a sustainable agriculture outreach ministry as well as an agritourism business. Your insight is very helpful to us as we start out on God’s journey for our lives. Thanks so much and God bless!

  9. Very straight shooting. I’ve struggled with many of these things in my own life. Although I do not farm full time, farming is one of the great loves of my heart and I do as much of it as I can. I have to remind myself daily that farming can become an idol, and that things and lifestyles, no matter how wholesome or moral, become wicked when they take the place of God in our lives or come between us and our God-given responsiblities to our spouses and children. Thank you for the poignant reminder.

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