Every spring as I purchase plants for my garden, I already am picturing the great tasting tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, and other fruits and vegetables that will be mine in a few months. THEN reality sets in. A lot will happen between planting and harvest time. It will get too hot and the cucumbers will need a shade cloth to protect them. Caterpillars will try to eat the tomatoes. The birds will come at just the time that the grapes are ripening. Some plants need a lot of water and others need less. And of course, there are the weeds. Don’t get me started on that. But let’s face it. It takes a lot of sweat and hard work for reaping a harvest.
Jesus used planting and reaping in some of His teachings. Spiritually speaking, we are always planting seeds and down the road will see a harvest. But just like the garden, spiritually reaping a harvest is hard work. Sometimes it seems like too much work. We get tired and weary. Have you ever been to that point?
If these are new concepts to you, you may be wondering:
- What does it mean to reap a harvest?
- What is the difference between harvest and reap?
- What does the Bible say about reaping a harvest?
- How do you reap a good harvest?
These are great questions so let’s talk about them.
What does it mean to reap a havest?
This is what the Collins dictionary has to say:
“If you reap the harvest, you benefit or suffer from the results of your past actions or of someone else’s past actions.”
You benefit when you plant seeds, care for the seedlings, and carefully water and fertilize the plants through their growing cycle.
In contrast, you suffer consequences when you don’t water the plants, don’t keep the weeds and bugs from destroying the plants, or don’t harvest when the plants are ready.
What is the difference between harvest and reap?
There isn’t much difference between harvest and reap. Both accomplish getting the reward of your labor from the plant into your hands for either selling, consuming, or giving to someone.
The real difference between harvest and reap is in how the vegetables or fruits are taken from the plants.
The word “reap” means to use some kind of mechanical means to remove the product from the plant. Usually, the entire plant is damaged or completely destroyed.
On the other hand, the word “harvest” is to use one’s hands to pick the produce. Harvest is a more “tender loving care” approach.
What does the Bible say about reaping a harvest?
Some of the first Scriptures about planting and reaping a harvest are found in Genesis.
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22 ESV
From the beginning of time, God ordained the rhythms of life and the changing of seasons.
Plants need the warmth of spring and summer to grow and develop. As the days begin to shorten and the weather becomes a little cooler, plants get the signal to stop growing and prepare to be harvested.
Plants also need winter for many different reasons, but the one I especially like is the destruction of insects. Then when spring rolls around again, the bugs have to start all over. This gives my plants a chance at survival.
There is a season for everything
“To everything there is a season … a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted … He has made everything beautiful in its time …” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 11
Reaping a harvest does not happen overnight. It takes time and patience between the planting and the reaping. But eventually, our efforts will yield a beautiful harvest.
Jesus spoke about planting and reaping a harvest
“And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediatly they sprang up … but when the sun rose they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered and died. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain …” Matthew 13:1-8
This passage of scripture is talking about a number of different scenarios and is explained further in the chapter. But it also reinforces the fact that reaping a harvest is hard work. The farmer only benefitted from 25% of what he planted.
Jesus compared the people around us to a field ready to harvest
“Do you not say, ‘there are yet four months and then comes the harvest?’ Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” John 4:35
Jesus was emphasizing the importance of being observant. There is only a small window of time for the harvest. You can’t cut grain too early or it might mold. Likewise, if you wait too long to harvest grain, it will be past its prime and worthless.
As Jesus spoke about the people around the disciples, He wanted them to be diligent in loving people and sharing the gospel with them. This was so that those who were ready would come to Jesus.
The apostle Paul used reaping a harvest in his teachings
“And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10
Sometimes doing good feels like a burden. I may already have too much on my emotional plate and not want to do anything more for the neighbor. Preparing a meal for someone who is sick might not be my forte. It might seem impossible to smile at others when I am hurting inside. Yet these actions are planting seeds, seeds that eventually will reap a harvest.
It’s the little things that matter
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:21
Just like seeds are tiny, so the little things that we do for others pack potential for a great harvest.
How do you reap a good harvest?
There are important things to remember if we want to reap a good harvest.
- Stay focussed- Don’t get distracted.
- Don’t put all your “eggs in one basket.”
- Nurture the seeds that you plant.
- Be aware of what season you are in- planting or harvesting
- Stay alert until harvest is complete
Stay focussed- Don’t get distracted
We have a goal to plant the seeds of the Gospel in the lives of others. When we do this, God is glorified and others have the opportunity for a personal relationship with Jesus.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
Don’t put all your “eggs in one basket”
This saying has to do with harvesting eggs from a henhouse. If you have all your eggs in one basket and accidentally drop the basket, all the eggs will be broken. But if you use more than one basket, some of the eggs will be saved.
As you are doing “good” to others, find more than one way to serve them. Try to understand the things that they like and appreciate. And do all in the name of Jesus, out of love and not out of obligation.
Nurture the seed that you plant
Don’t just do one “good deed” and forget the person. All the little things that you do in the name of Jesus eventually reach into their heart. Since everyone is different, ask God to show you what will best communicate His love.
Be aware of what season you are in- planting or harvesting
People come to Jesus on different timetables so you need to watch for signs that they are ready for harvest. Have they asked you anything about why you are kind to them? If they used to curse you, have they stopped? Have they asked your opinion about something?
Stay alert until harvest is complete
The process of harvest is not always a smooth one. There can be setbacks. Non-the-less, keep expecting a harvest and keep nurturing until the job is done. Jesus was patient with those who were seeking God. We need to do the same.
Final thoughts on reaping a harvest
Getting to the point of reaping a harvest is hard work. Let me encourage you to not be disappointed when it takes longer than what you are expecting. Instead, be faithful to plant and nurture the seeds of “good works” in the lives of others.
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