If you’ve ever grown a garden, you know that timing is everything. You can’t wait around with planting and harvesting. There’s always work to be done.
Several years ago, my wife and I had a very large garden. At the time, we had some medical expenses we were trying to pay off, and so we took our produce to the Waco farmer’s market every Saturday. Our little stand included dozens of different kinds of home-grown vegetables: fresh tomatoes, colorful peppers, summer and winter squash, rainbows of carrots, lettuce mixes and salad greens, red and green cabbage, Swiss chard, okra, spinach, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, beets, green beans, myriads of melons, onions, asparagus, cucumbers, dill, basil, parsley, radishes, potatoes, kohlrabi and arugula. We also sold bouquets of fresh flowers: sunflowers, bachelor’s buttons, zinnias, daisies, cosmos, and many others.
It was hard work!
Of course, Saturday was the day we sold our produce. Monday through Friday, was when the real work happened. Every week day, when I’d get home from my day job—serving as a pastor—I’d spend the rest of the daylight planting new crops and harvesting crops that were mature. There was no down time. The garden always demanded more. If I waited to plant a crop, even just a few days, I ran the risk of not having something to sell several months down the road, and if I waited to harvest a crop, I ran the risk of it getting too large or tough or going bad. Even just a day can make a big difference with vegetables like squash and cucumbers; they can grow to enormous proportions overnight. Tomatoes, too, can be touchy if you let them stay on the vine too long. Ripe veggies and fruit are magnets for bugs, critters and deer. You can lose a lot of crop—and a lot of income—if you don’t harvest in a timely way.
In short, when it’s time to plant, you plant and when a crop is ready for harvest, you harvest.
There’s no time for delay.
Today, Jesus speaks with similar urgency concerning the work of proclaiming the gospel. Every day, tens of thousands of people live and die without the hope of knowing that there is a Savior. Every day, all around us, tens of thousands never understand their need for forgiveness before it’s too late. There is no time for delay. No one knows the day or the hour, but one day the time for harvest will end, and so the need for more harvesters is always pressing.
What does this mean for you and me? I think it means, that like the gardener, we as followers of Christ must always be sowing seed and harvesting the crops of the kingdom of God. It is the perennial, ongoing work of the Church. It alone should be the reason for everything we do. It’s why churches need to invest in things like youth programs, outreach, and visits for homebound and the elderly. Like different kinds of crops, every demographic the church can reach provides new opportunities for sowing and harvesting.
And even though Jesus tells His disciples to pray, I strongly believe that He wants us to do much more than just pray. After all, Matthew will record for us that after telling them to pray, in the very next chapter, Jesus will send out His disciples to preach and proclaim the Gospel. Like a woman showing her husband a picture of something in a catalogue, if he’s a smart man, he’ll understand what she’s really getting at–she’s showing him what she wants for her birthday. In the same way, Jesus is showing us the work He wants us to be about, and so, our prayers that Lord would send laborers for the harvest are to become much more than just prayers, it is to become a part of our life’s work.
Only a few of us may be pastors or missionaries, but all of us can be a part of bringing in the harvest. Indeed, every Christian is called to be a witness of the surpassing compassion that Jesus shows sinners: His abundant grace, unending forgiveness, everlasting life and eternal salvation.
And never forget that while the Lord can answer prayer any way He likes, I guarantee you He won’t fail to provide what He commands us to pray for, and that could well mean His answer to your prayer is to send you!
Lord help me see how I might bring in the harvest and sow the seed of the Gospel in my own context, neighborhood and community. Amen.