Master of the Harvest

make disciples

‘Have plenty to do in the work of the Lord.’—1 COR. 15:58.

           While traveling through the region of Samaria at the close of 30 C.E., Jesus paused to rest at a well near the town of Sychar. There he said to his disciples: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) Jesus was referring, not to a literal harvest, but to a spiritual ingathering of right-hearted individuals who would become his followers. His words were, in effect, a call to action. There was much work to be done and only a brief space of time in which to accomplish it!

          Jesus’ words about a harvest have special meaning for our day. We live at a time when the world field of humanity is “white for harvesting.” Yearly, millions of people receive the invitation to take in life-giving truths, and many thousands of new disciples are baptized. Ours is the privilege to take part in the greatest harvest of all time, under the supervision of the Master of the harvest, God. Are you having “plenty to do” in this harvest work?—1 Cor. 15:58.

          During his three-and-a-half-year earthly ministry, Jesus groomed his disciples for their role as harvest workers. This talk will consider three of the many important lessons that Jesus taught his disciples. It is of great value to us as we strive to do our best in the modern-day ingathering of disciples. Let us consider these qualities one at a time.

Humility Is Essential

         Picture the scene: The disciples have just argued about who is the greatest. Feelings of distrust and ill will are likely still visible on their faces. So Jesus calls a young child to stand in their midst. Focusing attention on the small figure, he says: “Whoever will humble himself [or, “whoever makes himself small,” like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 18:1-4.) Instead of thinking like the world, which measures a person by his power, wealth, and position, the disciples needed to understand that their greatness depended on ‘making themselves small’ in the eyes of others. God would bless them and use them only if they showed true humility.

         To this day, many in the world dedicate their lives to the pursuit of power, wealth, and position. As a result, they have little or no time for spiritual interests. (Matt. 13:22) In contrast, God’s people are happy to ‘make themselves small’ in the eyes of others in order to win the blessing and approval of the Master of the harvest.—Matt. 6:24; 2 Cor. 11:7; Phil. 3:8.

        If you say no to the “lofty things” of this world and allow yourself to be “led along with the lowly things,” you too can expect to enjoy many additional blessings and privileges in the harvest work.—Rom. 12:16; Matt. 4:19, 20; Luke 18:28-30.

Diligence Brings Rewards

        Another quality that we need in order to have a full share in the harvest work is diligence. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the talents[1].  That illustration is about a man who, before traveling abroad, entrusted his belongings to three slaves. The first and second slave received five and two talents respectively; the third, one talent. After their master left, the first two slaves acted with diligence and immediately “did business” with their talents. In contrast, the third slave was “sluggish.” He buried his talent in the ground. Upon returning, the man rewarded the first two slaves by appointing them “over many things.” He took away the talent that he had given to the third slave and expelled that slave from his household.—Matt. 25:14-30.

       No doubt, your heart’s desire is to imitate the diligent slaves in Jesus’ parable and have as full a share as possible in the disciple-making work. However, what if circumstances severely limit what you are currently able to do? Perhaps harsh economic conditions force you to work long hours to provide for your family. Or maybe you no longer enjoy youthful vigor and good health. If that is the case, the parable of the talents contains an encouraging message for you.

        Note that the master in the parable recognized that each of his slaves had different potential. He indicated this when he assigned talents to “each one according to his own ability.” (Matt. 25:15) As expected, the first slave produced significantly more than the second slave. However, the master recognized the diligent efforts of both of these slaves by pronouncing the slaves “good and faithful” and giving them identical rewards. (Matt. 25:21, 23) Similarly, the Master of the harvest, God, knows that your circumstances affect what you are able to do in his service. He will not fail to recognize your whole-souled efforts to serve him and reward you accordingly.—Mark 14:3-9;   Luke 21:1-4.

        If current circumstances in life limit the time that you have available to spend in the ministry, you could still try to increase your share in the harvest work by making your ministry more productive. When you carefully apply the practical suggestions presented at the weekly Service Meeting, you will hone your preaching skills and explore new witnessing opportunities. (2 Tim. 2:15) In addition, if it is possible, you could reschedule or sacrifice nonessential activities so that you can regularly support congregation field service arrangements.—Col. 4:5.

        Keep in mind that diligence springs from an appreciative heart. (Ps. 40:8) The third slave mentioned in Jesus’ parable was afraid of his master, viewing him as a demanding and unreasonable person. As a result, the man buried his talent instead of using it to increase his master’s belongings. To avoid a similar negligent attitude, we need to cultivate and maintain a warm relationship with the Master of the harvest, God. Set aside time to study and meditate on his appealing qualities—his love, patience, and mercy. In that way, you will be moved from the heart to do your best in his service.—Luke 6:45; Phil. 1:9-11.

“You Must Be Holy”

         Quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures, the apostle Peter states God’s express will for his earthly servants, saying: “In accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:15, 16; Lev. 19:2; Deut. 18:13) This statement highlights that harvest workers need to be morally and spiritually clean. We can meet that important requirement by taking steps to be washed clean, figuratively speaking. How can that be done? With the help of God’s word of truth.

         God’s word of truth is likened to water that cleanses. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote that the congregation of anointed Christians is clean in the sight of God, like a chaste bride for Christ, who cleansed it “with the bath of water by means of the word . . . , that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27) Earlier, Jesus too had spoken of the cleansing power of the word of God, which he proclaimed. In speaking to his disciples, Jesus stated: “You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3) Hence, the truth of God’s word has power to carry out moral and spiritual cleansing. Only if we allow God’s truth to cleanse us in this way will our worship be acceptable to him.

         Thus, to become workers in God’s harvest, we must first eliminate all morally and spiritually defiling practices from our life. Yes, in order to continue to qualify for the privilege of being a harvest worker, we must be exemplary in upholding God’s high moral and spiritual standards. (1 Peter 1:14-16.) Just as we give constant attention to our physical hygiene, so we must regularly submit to the purifying influence of God’s word of truth. This involves reading the Bible and attending congregational meetings. It also means making a sincere effort to apply God’s reminders in our life. Doing so will enable us to combat our own sinful tendencies and resist the contaminating influences of this world. (Ps. 119:9; Jas. 1:21-25) Yes, how comforting it is to know that with the help of God’s word of truth, we can be “washed clean” of even serious sin!—1 Cor. 6:9-11.

         Do you welcome the cleansing influence of God’s word of truth in your life? How do you react, for example, when you are alerted to the dangers of this world’s degrading entertainment? (Ps. 101:3) Do you avoid unnecessary fellowship with schoolmates and fellow workers who do not share your beliefs? (1 Cor. 15:33) Are you sincere in your efforts to overcome personal weaknesses that could make you impure in God’s eyes? (Col. 3:5) Do you keep separate from this world’s political disputes and the nationalistic spirit that permeates many competitive sports?—Jas. 4:4.

         Your faithful compliance in such matters will bring excellent results. Comparing his anointed disciples to the branches of a vine, Jesus stated: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit [my Father] takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2) As you submit to the cleansing water of Bible truth, you will produce even more fruit.

Blessings Now and in the Future

         The faithful disciples who responded to Jesus’ training were later empowered by Holy Spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. to be witnesses “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) They went on to serve as members of the governing body, as missionaries, and as traveling elders, and they played a key role in preaching the good news “in all creation that is under heaven.” (Col. 1:23) What blessings they reaped, and what joy they brought to others!

         Yes, by demonstrating humility, displaying diligence, and upholding the high standards of God’s Word, we will continue to enjoy a full and meaningful share in the great spiritual harvest now under way. While many suffer the pain and frustration that accompany this world’s materialistic and pleasure-seeking lifestyle, we experience genuine joy and contentment. (Ps. 126:6) Most important of all, our “labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) The Master of the harvest, God, will reward us eternally for ‘our work and the love we show for his name.’—Heb. 6:10-12.


 

[1] The parable of the talents is primarily about how Jesus deals with his anointed disciples, but it contains principles that apply to all Christians.