It’s late July in Atlanta and the unusual abundance of rain combined with the typical heat of summer has sent my tomato garden into overdrive. I mean, real overdrive… like I pick 8 gallons of tomatoes every 3 days! Of course seeing that we started with 90 tomato plants in the spring, it’s not surprising that we’re enjoying a summer bounty of the ripe beauties. While I’m really enjoying having red, ripe slices with just about every meal recently, there’s just no way I can personally keep up with the yield.
So about once a week, I find myself in the kitchen either making salsa or stewing tomatoes to preserve for later use… a process which requires a lot of peeling, chopping, cooking, packing tomatoes into jars to process for canning. (5 ½ gallons of salsa and 4 ½ gallons of tomatoes, so far!) I know that there aren’t nearly as many people who do home canning these days (and some don’t even know what I’m talking about), but let me tell you, it is an involved process that can require a lengthy amount of time and effort! And the other thing is, that when the crops are ready, the time to work is NOW, NOW, NOW! They don’t wait for a break in a busy schedule or hold off while you take a break or get back from vacation.
Then (Jesus) said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” ~ Matthew 9:37
You know, when I read this verse, my recent tomato experience helps me to really understand the message Jesus was trying to communicate… as I expect most people from a farming or agricultural background do.
Unfortunately, sometimes the word “harvest” in modern Christian lingo conveys a totally different meaning. Those from a more urban upbringing, or who haven’t actually experienced an in-gathering of crops might sometimes think about ‘harvest’ in terms of abundance or a time of fruitfulness where believers simply enjoy what has been made ready. While abundance is certainly part of it, any farmer will tell you that reaping is the time of year necessitating the most work. Diligence, perseverance, and dedication, as well as many consecutive hours and long days are required to bring the crops in from the field. Days that require more stamina and conditioning in order to quickly store the crop so that the yield doesn’t spoil.
Jesus said “As you go, make disciples of all nations…”(Matt 28:18) “Make” is the operative word in that sentence. And to make anything requires effort. Often a lot of it. Though we all can have lofty wishes about being used by God, most of the time nothing really happens until we move past the “wishing” stage, and are ready to roll up our sleeves and get busy actually investing our whole hearts, souls and bodies in the labor of reaping the fields that God has prepared.
And sadly it is at this point where many potential laborers lose heart and some even step away from the task, opting for a more opportune time (which may pass them by.) In this age of instant meals and googled answers to any question, we all too often lack the perspective of the hardworking farmer who knows that every successful harvest requires diligence, perseverance, dedication and promptness. We should all earnestly seek to emulate that work ethic and focus in our pursuit of the Kingdom harvest as we dedicate ourselves to “not become weary in doing good,” knowing that “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)