Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
John 4:34-38 NASB
Some time ago, there was one of those meaningless controversies when some words of President Obama were taken out of context to prove a non-existent point. He was talking to a group about all the people who had gone before them to pave the way for the success they were enjoying today and, included in his remarks, was the phrase, “…you didn’t build this.” He was, as anyone who bothered to check, referring to the existing societal structures that had made the current business success of his listeners possible, but those who would like to constantly create conflict didn’t bother to share all that. They just said that the President wasn’t giving business people proper credit for all they’d done.
The actual point is a cultural observation that is true in almost every segment of life; we are the fortunate heirs of those who came before us. Our every advancement really is a partial product of what we inherited as much as it reflects what we ourselves have done.
That’s true in the Kingdom work, as well. At any given point in the process of sharing the Kingdom, we are not so much inventing anything new as we are extending the work of those who came before us.
Jesus was making that very point in this passage. He spoke to those who were spiritually “sitting around” waiting to go to work after some anticipated future event. He told them to open their eyes and recognize that there was work to do right now.
In an illustrative sense, He was saying that He knew that his listeners hadn’t done the actual planting, but that because someone else already did, there was even now a harvest that needed to be gathered.
In our ministry work, the same is clearly true today. Those who went before us, that “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Romans 12, did a lot of planting before we arrived on the scene. Others came along and watered, helping the previous work to grow and mature.
And now, here WE are, in position to do some reaping where we did not plant.
But, there’s another truth buried in here, as well. There are those who will come after us, and we need to be planting something for them to harvest.
Too often, we fail to enter into a difficult task because we realize that it will take more time than we personally have to bring it to completion. We use that as an excuse not to plant those seeds.
But, the older I get, the more I’m beginning to be learning that much of what I do has very little to do with me seeing a harvest from it. For the most part, I’m planting seeds for my children, and their children after them, to harvest. That harvest will likely come after I’m not longer on this earth.
But, that’s the nature of the Kingdom. It is a long term work that spans many lifetimes. We experience gain because eothers were faithful before us. Others who live after we’re gone will experience gain because of what we do.
IF, we are faithful.
Always praying for you,
Your Older Brother,