I grew up on a wheat farm.
We had about 2,800 acres of land that we farmed in cycles year to year. My father had farmed that land, his father, and his father before. The amount of land that our family accumulated happened over time.
When my great-great-grandfather started out, they were still pulling “machinery” by horses. Farming at that time was difficult and you didn’t need much land to make a living.
Nowadays, you need thousands and thousands of acres of land to produce enough crops to support a single-family. There have been so many advancements in agriculture that it can be hard to understand what Jesus means when he references agriculture in his time.
But, I have a touchpoint with crops, harvest, and the work that goes on with such things. So, today, I wanted to share something very interesting.
1st Century Agriculture
In the days of the Roman empire, a small family farm consisted of about 50 acres at most. This was mostly due to the fact that everything was done by hand. You planted by hand, you weeded by hand, and you harvested by hand.
It took a lot of work and covering 50 acres (about .07 square miles) would mean that it was only the family doing this. Maybe some relatives would come and help out if you didn’t have any laborer help.
In those days, when the harvest was ready you would need to be ready to start as soon as the sun came up, work until it went down, and do it over and over again until you had all your crops harvested.
While this hasn’t changed much in recent years, now you cover thousands of acres with machinery. In the 1st century, if you wanted to get through harvest quickly, you needed workers.
And it is in this reference, that Jesus explains something about the earth and the Kingdom of God.
The Harvest Is Plentiful, But The Workers Are Few
I am about to take you down a passage of scripture that is often used to encourage Christians to share their faith. It is regularly used by missionary organizations and churches, but I have a particular revelation that might change the common lessons taught. And it all starts here:
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. (Matthew 9:35–37, NLT)
The last two verses of this passage are often used. They demonstrate to the Christian the state of the world around them. This is always a bit of a misconception today.
Most people are not helpless or lost. Sure, there might be a lot of confusion, but it makes people who don’t believe seem to be something they are not. While I know that Jesus sees the crowds on more than the current physical level, we need to understand that our perception may not be the same as Jesus.
All that to say, the new revelation I have from this passage comes from the first part of the passage. Right before Jesus makes this declaration he is teaching, sharing the Good News, and healing people.
This made me realize that ‘the harvest’ is more than inviting people to church or sharing the gospel of Jesus with them.
The harvest is teaching. Teaching our children how to live and what it means to live in a relationship with God. The harvest is teaching others what it means to love one another and care for those in need. And yes, sometimes, teaching is speaking or writing to share information like this.
Announcing the Good News
The most often acknowledged part is sharing our faith. Jesus shared that the Kingdom of God was near with his arrival. We are to do the same, share the gospel of Jesus, that he came, died on a cross for our sins, rose from the dead three days later so that we could live in the right relationship with God.
This is often missed in the church today. In fact, many people are hurt more by the church than healed it would seem. We are to bring healing, sometimes physical healing, but many times emotional and spiritual healing. Jesus healed many, and we are called to do this too.
What Does This Mean For Us Today?
In our world today, we know there are lots and lots of people who don’t know Jesus. While inviting people to church is good, we are called to teach, share, and heal. This is not what the world around us expects of us though.
They expect us to cram our faith down their throats, judge them for not believing what we believe, and tear them down when they sin.
But, that is not what we are to do. The harvest is plentiful, but the works are few. Our work is to teach those who know Jesus how to live and be close to him. Our work is to share the love of Jesus with those who don’t know him. And, our work is to bring healing to the world around us, not more hurt.
Today, I want to encourage you to spend some time seeing how you can do these three things in your daily life. How can you teach, share, and heal? What would that look like? Then, start doing it.
Then you become a worker who enters the harvest.