Planting and Harvesting, Part II

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In Planting and Harvesting Part I, we looked at a story Christ told that demonstrated the pattern of planting and harvesting. Two servants, given a pretty hefty sum of money to watch over for their master, invested the money wisely and were rewarded. A third one basically allowed fear and hesitation to cause him to bury his entrustment in the ground, and as a result he was stripped of what little responsibility he had.

The lesson was that you harvest according to what you plant. Plant wisely and you will reap benefits (whether physical or spiritual is at God’s discretion). Plant poorly, or refrain from planting, and the harvest won’t be good.

And just like these servants were entrusted with their master’s riches, God has entrusted us with certain abilities and experiences that He expects us to invest in those around us.

There’s something else here, though.  Something that sailed right over my head a thousand times, before it popped me between the eyes one day not long ago.  It’s tied to the master’s exchange with this last servant, and it’s so key to the whole concept of using what we have.

Look at the servant’s statement: “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours” (Matthew 25:24-25).

And the master’s response: “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest” (verses 26-27).

Did you notice the similarity between the two quotes? Both servant and master agreed that this wealthy man reaped where he didn’t sow, and gathered where he hadn’t scattered seed.

So here’s a new twist to using our experiences: What if God doesn’t want us to just invest the good experiences, but also the bad? He “reaps where He has not sown.”

This means that there are a lot of things in your journey that God did not ‘plant’ or cause, but that He expects to get something out of it nonetheless!

Those bad experiences in your past…God didn’t cause them. But He still desires to get a harvest out of it!

Those offenses that you committed in the past or that brokenness that you still struggle with today…God didn’t cause it or create it. (And in the case of current brokenness, He definitely doesn’t want you indulging it.) But He still wants to reap something good from it!

Sometimes it’s the most stupid or wrong or offensive thing we did that becomes something we are expected to invest in certain situations or relationships.

Please understand I’m not trying to excuse or justify anyone’s bad choices. My own bad choices, for example, are totally mine. And while I would jump at a chance to undo them, God has still used them. He allowed those choices and the lessons I’ve learned from them to reap a harvest through many circumstances and interactions in ministry.

So never ever get caught in the trap of thinking you are disqualified because of something that happened to you or something that you have done. And don’t get caught up in thinking that you have to bury those bad choices in the dirt so no one ever sees them. They’re nothing to be proud of, for sure, but there are still circumstances where they are exactly the investment that’s needed.

God may not always be the planter, but He is always the Great Harvester!

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Planting and Harvesting, Part I

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We’re all familiar with the saying – “you reap what you sow.”

If you plant something good, you get a good harvest. If you plant something subpar, you get a subpar crop.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Not only is it a biblical concept, but it’s common sense as well.

But God’s ways often go beyond what makes sense to us (see Isaiah 55:8). Sometimes in an over-and-above-our-expectations way. Sometimes in a completely-off-the-rails way.

There’s this story Jesus told that is commonly known as “the parable of the talents.”  If that little chunk of bible-speak lost you, don’t panic. A parable, as you probably know, is simply a story used to illustrate a point. A talent, as you may or may not know, was a sum of money equivalent to about 6,000 Roman denarii (a denarius was about an average day’s wage).

So there you are. Now, on to the story. I encourage you to read it yourself (never ever take my or anyone else’s word for it when it  comes to scripture – always read it with your own eyes), but it goes roughly like this:

A rich man goes away for a while and leaves his wealth with three servants – entrusting five talents to one, two talents to another, and one talent to the last.  When he returns, he calls them in to find out what they did with his money while he was away.

The first two had invested, and doubled the funds left to them.  The master was impressed. He praised them and gave them promotions – responsibilities over and above the resources they were already managing. It was a good day for those two.

But the third guy, not so much. Knowing that his master was a pretty ruthless man, he had made a different decision. He dug a hole and buried his talent because he was afraid of losing it. The rich master was not impressed, to say the least. In fact, he was so upset with the servant’s skittish behavior that he ordered even the small responsibility which had been entrusted to him (the one talent) taken from him and given to the guy with ten.

You reap what you sow.

Both of the wise servants took a risk, planted wisely, and collected rewards (possessions and promotions).  The not-so-wise servant took no risk, essentially planted distrust and hesitation, and reaped the same.

Here’s the application: Each of us carries many things through our life journey.  Talents (of the what-I-am-able-to-do variety not the ancient-money variety), skills and abilities, experiences, and the knowledge we’ve gained from those experiences.  These things shape us and prepare us for where we are today.

In other words, God equips us with certain ‘resources’. And He expects us to use what He’s equipped us with.

If, out of fear, we take those resources and bury them deep in the ground, the best we can expect is to find ourselves staring into an empty hole where a fulfilling life should be. But if we invest it – if we put it to good use – then we’ll find success, reward, and a sense of accomplishment and purpose that is undeniable. In short, we discover our freedom to be what God created.

(It’s important to pause here and note that “success and reward” do not automatically translate to financial prosperity. Don’t get wrapped up in that – that is so shallow and short-sighted compared to what God has in store for His kids!)

So the reminder is simple: Don’t squirrel away what God has given you. Invest it, and watch to see what the harvest brings. If you’re faithful and a little patient, it will definitely be over and above what you expected.

Next time I want to dwell on this story just a while longer, and look at something that’s a little more out-of-the-box, but just as integral to our freedom to invest. So check back soon.

But until then … take some time to evaluate what God has entrusted you with and how you are investing it.