I've been memorising the book of Matthew in the NIV so this morning when my study took me into Matthew, I decided to read from another translation to help me see things I may have missed and wow! Did I ever!
All Christians are familiar with the passage that talks about the harvest being great, the workers few and asking God to send out more workers for the harvest and I, at least, have been taught to interpret the harvest as conversion to Christianity and the workers as people directly involved with evangelism, mission work and church planting but today, as I read that in context, I had to step back and take a second look. Is the harvest really about adding people to the Kingdom of God?
Look at the verse in context: Matthew 9:35 to 10:15 in the NLT. Jesus was travelling through Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, announcing the Good News of the Kingdom and healing people of every disease and illness. As he looked to the crowds that came to him, he felt pity for them because they didn't know where to go for help and in that context he talks about the harvest being great and the workers few. If I stop reading there, at the end of chapter 9, I have to conclude that the harvest has something to do with showing people with great problems, where to go for help; it involves not just teaching and preaching but healing as well. Jesus is saying, We need teachers, preachers (announcers) and healers.
And then what does he do in Matthew 10? He confirms that the workers needed to bring in the harvest are people who will cast out evil spirits, heal every kind of disease and illness and announce that the Kingdom is near. Give freely of what you've received--healing, raising from the dead, casting out demons! This is the work of the harvesters, not adding names to the church roll. No wonder the workers are few today; we've amputated people's ability and authority to do this. We have starved our people of the means by which they could work to bring in the harvest--at least in the Western world. We, as Christians, are firmly caught in the snare of secular materialism--thinking that only the things we can touch and see are real--and spiritualising it by saying that miracles belong to a different dispensation. Rubbish! As those Christians in under-developed and developing countries know, this is the essence of harvesting.
I admit that I am not a harvest worker of this mode. There is no string of healings and deliverances in my wake. People don't come to me and ask me to raise their dead, like some did with Peter. But I do belong to a church that believes like this and I want to be open to the possibility that perhaps God would like to use me in this way, to keep my ears open to what he might be directing me to do and to take the risks necessary to step out and do something that I've never done before, that could be embarrassing if it doesn't "work," that could bring the wrath of many upon me and that is just plain scary to contemplate. What about you?