Monday, July 30, 2012

The Workers and the Wheat


[Author's note: This is a very analogy-laden piece. I'm sure you would discover that. What I want to mention is that I hope you take careful not of the parallels I'm talking about here. I wrote this at about the same time as hierarchy. It's another example of my "evolved literature" style. No, it doesn't mean it's getting better, but what I do is hand-write everything first. When I begin typing (a day or two, even a week later) many new ideas, themes, and considerations enter my head and it expands the piece by 2-3x. I always try and keep the continuity in mind, but I may have failed in that respect. This was originally intended to be very simple and gentle but I hoped for a stronger tone in the middle. I hope you like it! ~ M]

____ 


“You are God’s field” (1 Cor 3:9).

As I considered these words and the many comparisons made between the faithful and seeds, plants, and wheat I thought to myself, “How difficult it is to be the wheat!” Indeed, as the wheat we are dependant upon others and God for our own growth. But if the planter was wise and the cultivator good then the wheat flourishes. For “I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. … [Neither of us is anything], but only God, who causes the growth. [But], the one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and reach will receive wages in proportion to his labor” (1 Cor 3:6-8).

Indeed, when the wheat flourishes it is kept and the laborers are honored. But if the wheat is sickly it is burned and the laborers rebuked for producing a weak crop. So too there are those who have given us our faith, those who have cultivated it, and those who safeguard it.

Children, do you not see how fickle your faith is? Yes, many of you and even me are like children who need “milk, not solid food, because [we are] unable to take it.” (1 Cor 3:2). Do you not see the gift you were given, and how easily it could have been taken away? How easily it could yet still be taken away? Your faith is not only an affirmation of God the almighty Father and thereafter you flourish. Your faith is a seed that needs careful cultivation and only in due time will it flourish.

The laborers deserve their wages. Whom have you paid?

Some of us were planted and cared for by words, deeds, and other examples. Parents, priests, and friends lived in a manner that did not make us lose heart. Truly they were like “a lamp shining in a dark place, until … the morning star [dawned] in your hearts” (2 Pet 2:19). But some of you, having been raised like this, left their example behind and refused cultivation. Does the wheat grow and care for itself or is it not at the mercy storms, pestilence, and other harms? Who will protect your faith? Certainly God protects His children, but does the wheat’s desire for life and flourishing guarantee it?

Others among you were sickly, living a life of pride, sloth, and many other vices. A laborer who had pity on your plight rescued you. Do you realize that your conversion was an act of grace on your behalf and grace working in the other as well? Or was not Paul converted by the grace of God acting on both him and Ananias? Many had to cooperate with God’s grace so you might experience it yourself. But many of us, like thoughtless wheat, did not know how our soil was prepared or who prepared it. When we reaped the many benefits of grace and revelation we thought ourselves initiated into a personal relationship and that this was all we needed. The wheat thought itself as existing (in its current state) by its faith and by the grace of God alone. Truly nothing grows toward God without Him, but the wheat here did not count himself as the fruit of many unseen labors. For recall that even the Enemy has sown weeds among us and the workers, picked by God, toil tirelessly and often unseen so you won’t be bundled among the weeds.

The laborers deserve their wages. Whom have you paid?

Who has God appointed as laborers? The seeds are not all men but “the good seed [are] the children of the kingdom” (Mt 13:38). The seeds sown are faith inspired and given freely by the Son of Man. But God also sent us laborers. He selected them from among the people to cultivate and harvest.

I do not say all these words to discourage you, but I say them so you might reflect more deeply on how great a gift the present moment is. For even if there are tempests in our own life, are not the love, memory, and example of good laborers (and the Good Shepherd Himself) who help us to persevere? And do we not have a history of good laborers in the saints (now) in heaven and our loved ones here on earth?

My friends, persevere when times are difficult and rejoice with God and His laborers when you flourish.

Truly, there are times when we must be laborers and we must emulate them by their tireless and quiet efforts to produce good crops. Other times we must be as the wheat, perfectly willing to be cultivated—humble, steadfast, obedient, and wholly dependent on the laborer. It is when we start growing (i.e., discovering our own calling and gifts) that we can often neglect cultivation. Do not lead yourselves to ruin.

Do not be deceived that either the laborer or the wheat is perfect. Do not both have faults within? Do not both face dangers on the outside too? All the same, both are honored when one cares for the wheat and that same wheat produces a great yield. Therefore when we neglect our own labors we are shamed by lack of a fruitful yield. When we reject cultivation (as living wheat) we produce little or nothing at all. Recall that even the one who works hard but sees little fruit grows himself by virtue of his hard work—do not be discouraged by proximate and immediate failures!

Sometimes we must work with rough soil and other times unsure hands guide us—but what benefit is it to not toil? What benefit is it to refuse growth?