One aspect of Jesus’ ministry that allowed him to touch so many lives was that he didn’t just teach people the principles of right and wrong but explained his theology with easily understood “application stories.” These were in turn based on the realities of his listeners’ lives; their culture, relationships and occupations, as well as their hopes and fears. Israel was largely an agrarian society. (Although they did have a number of large cities.) Farming, therefore, became a prime means of exploring many of the deep truths of Jesus’ gospel. In fact, both Testaments use similar allegorical teachings to reach the hearts and minds of their readers, for practical and spiritual reasons. Leviticus 19:19 instructing the Israelites, “Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.” (See also Deuteronomy 22:9-11) The obvious reason being that two different crops growing side-by-side could be extremely hard to tend and especially difficult to harvest. The spiritual application highlighting the difficulty of “fence-straddling” or living two totally different and often contrary lifestyles. (See Matthew 13:24-30; 37-40 & 2 Corinthians 6:14)
Job observed that, “…those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” Job 4:8 While Hosea encourages us to, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, (and) reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord,…” Hosea 14:12 Matthew, Mark and Luke all recalling Jesus’ parable of the sower whose effort resulted in some of his seed being cast upon the path alongside his field, where it was trampled under-foot and quickly eaten by the birds. Some of it falling on rocky soil where it sprang up nicely but just as quickly withered under the heat of the sun, as it had failed to develop a strong root system to sustain it. Still more falling among thorns and weeds growing at the edges of the field, becoming entangled in them and eventually choked out. And finally, some seed landed and grew in the well-prepared soil that had been plowed, tended and fertilized; producing a crop many times larger than what was sown.
When questioned for specifics on this teaching, Jesus dutifully explained how the seed was symbolic of his word, while the individual responses to his word were indicative of the harvest the seed did or didn’t produce. Some hearing the word and treating it with disregard or contempt and therefore “snatched up” by the Devil. Others, like rocky soil, receiving the seed with joy but, developing no root system to ground them securely, fail to reach maturity in their growth and quickly fade away. The destiny of still more are reflected in the seed that fell among weeds and thorns; the distractions, worries and deceitfulness of life lived in the “world” choking out their best intentions as well as the benefit of having Christ in their lives. And finally, the seed that fell on the properly prepared and maintained soil produced an abundance of life-giving grain, representing a bountiful harvest in the individual’s life as well as the possibility of a shared wind-fall with those around them. (Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20 & Luke 8:5-15)
Again, Old Testament scripture assures us that, “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble,…” Proverbs 22:8 and conversely, “…he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.” Prob. 11:18; mirrored in Paul’s admonition that, “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7,8 (See also 2 Corinthians 9:6) The practical side of these admonitions being, “…he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, …” 2 Corinthians 9:10,11
Jesus further challenged his disciples when he noted that, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37; lamenting the fact that the harvest in souls was slow in being realized because of an apparent shortage of faithful field hands willing to fulfill their duties. (See also John 4:34-38) Paul further explaining our responsibilities as disciples of Christ in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, reminding each of us that we have been assigned individual and oft-times different tasks. Some plant, others water, while still more cultivate and harvest the crop; with no one being more important than the other. God being the one who multiplies all those efforts, bringing about growth and a bountiful harvest. Those who plant, water, till or harvest contribute to one purpose, each being rewarded according to his labor in, for, and through Christ.
Through faith we participate in this process, trusting God to bless our effort with fruitfulness even if, at the moment, we see no tangible results. For as God’s “fellow workers” have done throughout the ages, we too can look over an untilled field, yet have hope for an abundant crop. By preparing the ground for planting, we express belief in that hope. The sowing of seed then declares our trust that He will make all things as they should be. And as God’s sun and rain nourishes and stimulates the seed to burst forth, we rejoice and declare, ‘I knew it!’1
1Adapted from a quote by author C.A. Baker
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