Carver was in full-time ministry
The accomplishments of Dr. George Washington Carver in the field of botany-chemistry are legendary, having developed 300 products from the peanut, and 118 from the sweet potato. The products Carver invented include printers ink, shaving cream, plastics, adhesives and much more.
But Carver only owned three patents on his many creations. Why? Because he didn't feel it was right to take money for something God gave him.
God gave him?
That's the way Carver saw it.
When he was inventing products from peanuts, Carver would go into his lab (which he called "God's Little Workshop") at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, and ask God to reveal to him the mysteries of the peanut.
Carver literally asked God why He made the peanut, and, by Carver's own testimony, God answered his prayer. Carver locked the door to his lab when he was creating things, because, as he put it, “only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets.”
Carver epitomizes what it means to be a co-worker with God. In a letter written to Rev. Lyman Ward, Carver declared, “I am not interested in science or anything else that leaves God out of it.”
At the age of 63, he wrote: “Man, who needed a purpose, a mission, to keep him alive, had one. He could be...God's co-worker...My purpose alone must be God's purpose...As I worked on projects which fulfilled a real human need, forces were working through me which amazed me. I would often go to sleep with an apparently insoluble problem. When I woke the answer was there.”
Carver did not practice a “Sunday religion.” His relationship with the Lord was an every day reality: “…all my life I have risen regularly at four o'clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There He gives me my orders for the day.”
Carver was in full-time ministry. Not as a pastor, but as a botanist-chemist.
He is able to look beyond the peanuts
Religious leaders tried to trip Jesus up one day by asking Him to identify the most important commandment. Christ replied: “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”And then He added: “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”
Through his work as a botanist-chemist, Dr. George Washington Carver loved God and loved people. For Carver, his work is a daily opportunity for living out his love for Christ and for humanity.
Carver’s love for God is evidenced by the fact that he asks the Lord to give him his orders for the day during his morning walks through the woods. Carver continues to commune with God throughout the day, while in the lab at Tuskegee Institute creating products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans.
In doing his work as a botanist-chemist, Carver puts his daily trust in the Lord. He says: “God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. The method is reveled to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless.”
When asked what the secret of his success is, Carver replies: It is simple. It is found in the Bible, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
At the age of 75, Carver writes: “…if we do not take Christ seriously in our every day life, all is a failure because it is an every day affair.”
Clearly, Carver’s love for God compels him in his daily work as a botanist-chemist. He is able to look beyond the peanuts to his love for the Lord, and this gives his work with plants extraordinary meaning, and a higher purpose beyond the plants themselves.
Carver is not only compelled by his love for God, but his love for people too.
Here is the big question of the day: How can our daily work be a channel for loving God and loving people?
It boils down to four words
For Dr. George Washington Carver, the purpose and meaning of work boiled down to four words.
After Carver succeeded in creating products from plants, Thomas Edison asked him to come to New Jersey and work for him. Edison offered Carver a salary equivalent in today’s economy to nearly one million dollars per year. Carver declined the offer so he could remain at Tuskegee and help the Southern farmers.
Carver started a “School on Wheels,” going out to farms so he could teach farmers how to revive cotton-tired soil by planting peanuts and sweet potatoes. He also went to his lab to create markets for these plants, inventing 300 uses for the peanut and 118 uses for the sweet potato. Carver not only revived the soil, but the economy as well.
More than twenty years after Carver’s death, Clarence Mason, director of the Carver Research Foundation at Tuskegee, said of Carver: “…I have the most profound respect and admiration for Dr. Carver because he turned away from the field in which he was most skilled and best trained [botany], to work in an area which he felt he could do the most good for the people in his community [chemistry].”
When Booker T. Washington invited Carver to come to Tuskegee Institute to teach students how to plant and harvest crops so they could be brought out of “degradation, poverty and waste,” Carver replied: “I…shall be glad to cooperate with you in doing all I can through Christ who strengtheneth me to better the condition of our people.”
That is exactly what Carver did.
Through his work as a botanist-chemist, Carver loved people. At age 60 Carver wrote: “Living for others is really the Christ life after all. Oh, the satisfaction, happiness and joy one gets out of it…I know that my Redeemer lives. Thank God I love humanity; complexion doesn’t interest me one single bit.”
For Carver, it boils down to four words: Love God, love people.
Most people would agree that George Washington Carver was an extraordinary person, doing extraordinary work. But I think it is possible for any legitimate work done by any follower of Christ to be a conduit for loving God and loving people.
What do you think?