Emilie and I love our blueberries. So do the squirrels, birds, deer, and geese. For that reason we have planted lots of blueberry bushes outside the fence. In fact, almost two-thirds of our bushes are growing outside our bird protected area. There is a biblical basis for sharing our harvest in this way. As Ellen Davis says in her book, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture, An Agrarian Reading of the Bible, “We may discern that the most essential activity befitting humans created in the image of God is to secure the food system that God gives to sustain all creatures.” This responsibility comes directly from the first chapter of Genesis, which says, “God said, see, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit, you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life. I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1:29-30).
Humankind needs to better understand how we fit into nature, and God encourages us to go directly to the source, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.” (Job 12: 7-8). What we are learning however is that species are disappearing from the Earth at an alarming rate – about 1000 times faster than the natural rate, and that is happening because we are not being good stewards of our common home. How the loss in biodiversity will ultimately affect humankind is unknown.
Fourth-century theologian Basil the Great appeared to have a better understanding of our role in nature than we seem to have today when he wrote:
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship
with all living things, our brothers the animals
to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past
we have exercised the high dominion of [humankind] with ruthless cruelty
so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song,
has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone
but for themselves and for thee,
and that they love the sweetness of life.
And that is why we plant blueberries outside the fence.