I went searching for what the Bible has to say about harvesting, since it feels very much like that time of year. Really, I suppose, it’s the end of that time of year. I always wonder why sometimes when I search specific things in the Bible, I end up getting some really positive information, and other times what I come up with reads like terrifying threats of doom and destruction. That brings me to a common question about God — is he more on the side of love or is he there to reproach us for wrongdoing? Or is it both? If he’s considered our father, then does he have to weigh the two just like we do as parents?
Like a disobedient child, I only want to hear the upbeat, encouraging passages. I don’t want to hear about death and misery.
You can find both of these verses in the Bible, but they have different connotations:
Joel 1:11 says: “Be ashamed, O farmers,
Wail, O vinedressers,
For the wheat and the barley;
Because the harvest of the field is destroyed.”
Then Matthew (one of my personal favorites) writes in the Gospel:
“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?”
The prophet Joel could have been trying to draw attention to the destruction of the locusts in the field, so as to demonstrate how powerful God is. Matthew, though, sounds as if he’s saying something like, “If God takes the time of day to look after the birds of the air, of course he’s going to take time to look after you.” The Bible becomes so much more manageable when I put my own spin on it. Oh, I know there are experts, and I know I’m not one of them. But I also know I look to that particular book for all the parables that are presented — teachable moments. I think in parables, so this helps me a lot. I also tend to think that God isn’t necessarily out to scare the crap out of me. I think he’d much rather guide, protect, love me and show me some of that mercy he’s always talking about. At least I hope so.
We’re all familiar with the saying “You reap what you sow.” If we plant the seeds of good works, of love, of kindness and empathy — those will be what we get back, what we sow. The word “harvest” is a good word in my book. Reaping the fruits of our labor, storing up what we have plenty of so that we’ll still have it when times get lean.
If the harvest is bad, there’s a lesson to be learned. Maybe we didn’t take care of what we were growing as well as we should have. Maybe we forgot to water the earth. Maybe some challenge came along that we had no control over — hurricane, flood, or drought. Life is a lot like the harvest. There are things that happen that we can’t explain, much less hold power over. And there are other, more encouraging things that happen — like when we have a full refrigerator, or we preserve what we’ve grown in our garden and it fills our pantry. It’s not always bad, this harvesting. But it can change over time — sometimes the harvest is plenty and other times it’s just not enough.
In the end, maybe the point is that we should pay attention to this growing and tending so that we’re more apt to know when the harvest is just right.