Summary: When we need help to get the job done, we put out a Help Wanted sign. When Jesus recognized the need for more workers for His harvest, He told us to pray
The Labor Challenge
November 7, 2010
If you’re the owner, manager or boss of a business, and you need more help because, maybe you’re having a grand opening, and there’s so much business, you cannot do it yourself, what do you do?
Chances are, you might put out a Help Wanted sign, or place a help wanted ad in the newspaper or on an internet site. You might hire a search firm to help you find the right person and weed through and eliminate people who might be wrong for the job.
One thing you wouldn’t do is just sit back and say, “oh well, we don’t have enough people to do the work. Let’s just hope we don’t get any more business.”
When Jesus walked the earth, He had plenty to do, and He did the work that God gave Him to do. But He, too, saw a need, and gave to His disciples, and to us, the means to the end of finding the solution to this need.
Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV) Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
We see some key themes outlined in this passage. First, we see that the harvest is plentiful. In other words, there’s plenty of work to be done. In this context, it means there are plenty of souls to be saved. This passage tells us that anyone working in some capacity in the harvest will not get bored because he or she doesn’t have enough to do.
Then, we see that though there’s plenty of harvesting work to be done, there are not enough people to do the work. There are more people needed to serve as workers in the harvest, because the crops need to be harvested in a timely manner, or the harvest will spoil.
We also see who the boss is – not just the boss, but the owner. Verse 38 says it’s His harvest field. It’s the Lord’s harvest. It doesn’t belong to anyone but Him. It doesn’t belong to the church leadership, and it doesn’t belong to the congregation.
We also see the solution Jesus gave for this dilemma. The dilemma is that the crops are ready, and there are a lot of them ready to be harvested. The crop is sitting there waiting to be picked. But with the number of workers currently doing the work of the harvest, it cannot be done adequately. So we need more workers.
If we’re to use our business owner analogy just a little further here, it’s as if Jesus was saying, “Ask your boss to send more workers into His business, so we can all get the job done.”
Please get the boss to put out a help wanted sign. But it’s also clear from this passage of scripture that it’s stronger than the boss simply putting out a help wanted sign and saying “please come.” The word translated send out can mean “thrust out” – “drive out” – there’s some strength or force behind this. It’s more like the master saying to the slave – do this work – than it is like an employer saying to a potential employee – please come work for me.
That’s one reason why it’s the Lord of the Harvest who sends workers, not us. Because he’s the boss and we’re not. We cannot recruit anyone for harvest work. We can cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing to bring workers into the harvest, but we cannot initiate something God hasn't already ordained.
So, then, we ask, we beseech or pray earnestly, as some versions say, that the Lord of the Harvest would send more workers to get the job done.
There are a couple of important subthemes in this passage that we’ll also explore.
1. The crowds are harassed and helpless (distressed and dispirited), like sheep without a shepherd.
2. Jesus had compassion on these people
TCF has never been a church that was about quantity. In terms of our devotion to the Lord, and our Kingdom service, I like to think we’re more about quality. Quality of devotion to Christ. Quality of relationships.
Unfortunately, this idea of not being about quantity, or numbers, has led some to think that the elders don’t care at all about quantity. In some sense, that’s true, so it’s not unreasonable for some to come to this conclusion.
We do not desire for TCF to grow just for the sake of TCF becoming a larger church. Just so we can have a nicer building in a different part of town. Just so the staff can get bigger salaries. That’s not what we’re about.