John Stott tells the story of the cockney gardener who was showing a clergyman the beauty of his garden, with its herbaceous borders in full and colourful bloom. Duly impressed, the clergyman broke out into spontaneous praise of God. The gardener was not very pleased, however, that God should get all the credit. “You should ‘have seen this ‘ere garden,” he said, “when Gawd ‘ad it to ‘isself!” He was right. His theology was entirely correct. “Nature” is what God gives us; “culture” is what we do with it. Without a human cultivator, every garden of field quickly degenerates into a wilderness.
Usually we emphasise the indispensabioity of God’s part. We sing
We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand.
The opposite, however, would be equally true. We might sing instead:
God plants the lovely garden
And gives the fertile soil,
But it is kept and nurtured
By man’s resourceful toil.
Stott, New Issues Facing Christians Today, 193.