I never really thought much about the harvest. I grew up in a farm town, but I didn’t live on the farm. We had a good-sized garden, but nothing that required machinery to harvest. In fact, “harvest” was typically a word I heard in school. It was a PC term. Used instead of Halloween (so the uber-religious didn’t get mad) or Thanksgiving (so the non-religious didn’t get mad). When I wrote my first book, there was a whole chapter that took place on a farm during harvest and I had to do some research. Obviously, I eat food that’s harvested in the fall, but I didn’t know much about what it takes to get the crops from the field onto our tables.
All this talk about harvest made me think of the how many times the Bible uses harvest metaphors. Obviously, many of the communities in the Bible were agrarian, so it was something they understood. I often have to look up a word since I’m not an ancient farmer, but I love the harvest metaphors.
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
My kids don’t love when we have leftovers for dinner. They’re good sports about it, but they’re not wrong. Most food is better when it’s freshly prepared. Not when it was fresh, but has been chilling in the refrigerator for a few days. When I think of this verse, I think of leftovers. I’d rather not eat the leftovers, but when it comes to God, that’s often what I offer Him.
We do autopay for our giving. Both the church and other ministries we support. So, in a sense, we are giving the firstfruits. It definitely helps us not forget, but I don’t always remember either. What I mean is, that money is automatically taken out. I don’t pray over it. I don’t think about all the things God will do with it as I write a check. Maybe I need to set a reminder to think about what’s been given, so I can really consider what a privilege it is to give to the mission of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 8:4, Paul is calling the Corinthians to the carpet a little. The Macedonian churches had been really faithful in giving compared to the Corinthians who were holding on a little tighter to their money (though they had more of it.) “They urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” That will change your perspective a little. Not only did they give, they “urgently pleaded for the privilege”. Talk about firstfruits.
I’m more guilty of giving leftovers when it comes to my time. The days are busy, but if we’re honest, we have time for all kinds of unimportant things. Scrolling through social media, TV, even good things like audiobooks. How is it I can listen to two books a week, but can’t find time to read my Bible? It’s all about priorities. Firstfruits. Not leftovers.
Sewing and Reaping
There’s a lot of talk in the Bible about sowing and reaping. It doesn’t take an expert farmer to know that in order to reap a harvest, something needs to be planted. But the kind of seed and how much will determine what that harvest looks like.
2 Corinthians 9:6
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
A few years ago, I got a packet of wildflower seeds. It’s important to note that I don’t have a green thumb. I recently killed a succulent and I didn’t think that was possible. My kids are pretty good with flowers. They like to keep track of which ones they planted so when they grow big, they can take credit for them. I asked them to scatter the seeds in our back garden and we covered them with soil. I was thinking, “Well, that was a fun activity.” But I didn’t expect it to work. I was proven right until very late in the season. Suddenly, in late September, we had a garden full of colorful blooms. Just when we almost forgot about the seeds, they surprised us. We didn’t spare any seeds. Just scattered the whole packet and what a reward that was.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
I plant seeds all the time. Not physical seeds, but symbolically. Sometimes I plant seeds of doubt. Sometimes I plan bitterness. Sometimes I plant division. And those seeds never cease to grow. And yet, most of us who call ourselves Christians do so because someone somewhere planted a seed. They prayed for us. They reached out and mentored us. They planted a seed and, as a result, we will reap a harvest of eternal life. Let’s scatter those seeds everywhere.
God Takes Care of Us
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
When I think about the things I stress over in any given day, they’re so silly. Really. Most of them won’t matter as soon as tomorrow. But still, I hold onto worry. What a slap in the face that must be for God. He’s so mighty and in control, but I choose to worry about things he can handle for me without batting an eye. Maybe a little time birdwatching will remind me that God takes care of my needs. I don’t need to store things away or worry. He’s got it under control.
A Bad Harvest
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The biggest fear of any farmer is a bad harvest. It’s terrifying to think that you can do everything right. Follow best practices for planting, weed, and tend the soil and something out of your control can wipe out your entire crop. Drought, or floods, locusts or disease.
We all have those times when things are just difficult. Sometimes they’re a punishment for sin, but often it’s not our fault. We did what we were supposed to do, but tragedy still comes knocking.
Poke around on social media for a bit or get out and talk to neighbors and you’ll find that many are living in this bitter harvest. They expected a bountiful feast, but instead got famine. I think the best word in this verse is the word YET. Everything hinges on that word. “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
It’s a choice. I will choose to rejoice in the LORD. Why? Because he’s my Savior and that’s a reason for joy.
A Harvest of Righteousness
Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Until this exercise, I don’t remember hearing the phrase “harvest of righteousness.” But here are two places where it’s used. Peacemakers sow and reap a harvest of righteousness. That sounds like a great harvest. When sow in peace, we reap righteousness. What does that look like? I lead an group of eighth grade girls at church. I’ve told them that they get to choose how much drama they have in their lives by simply choosing not to engage. Maybe not joining in on the gossip or not laughing at others are peace seeds. That’s a lesson I need as an adult too.
Lastly, God uses his discipline to produce a harvest of righteousness. He really is a loving father, willing to discipline us to grow us. As a parent, I love when I see a certain behavior we’ve been working on for a while subside. Fewer squeals when my daughter doesn’t get what she wants. Less hitting. Fewer fits. It’s a sign that the discipline is working. They are becoming better people. A harvest of righteousness. It’s not pleasant at the time, but He’s doing a good work in me.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll never attend a “harvest celebration” or hang pretty “harvest” decor around my house without thinking about how God uses the harvest to teach us. We are to give our firstfruits to him. We reap what we sow. He takes care of us. He’s good even when the harvest isn’t and he wants us to become more like him. If the Bible were written today, it may have more sports illustrations or examples from tech. But God chose farming which will always be a part of our lives to teach us about him because he’s timeless too.