Plowing the Fields|
Learning to Plow with Questions
by David Churchill
Look at people practicing their religion today
and youll see several denominations divided from one another. Differences
cause and maintain this division differences in teaching, in understanding,
in practice, in sources of doctrine, and even in what kind of god or gods
to believe in. Can all of these differences be in harmony with reality
or even with each other? Think about it: if one church says
that a bishop can not have either a wife or children, and another church
says that a bishop must have both a wife & believing children, and yet
another church says it doesnt matter if a bishop is married or not,
then how can all three views agree with what the Christ instructs for his
churchs bishops? Since the three understandings are mutually
exclusive of each other and if one is correct, then the other two are wrong.
As long as people hold onto wrong understandings about Gods
word, the results will always be doctrinal divisions and religious denominations.
Chapters 5, 6, & 7 of the Matthews
gospel record Jesus famous Sermon on the Mount. In verses 13
& 14 of chapter 7, Jesus shows he knows about people holding onto wrong
by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads
to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult
is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. He clearly understood that a lot of
people have trouble finding and holding to the truth. Has the situation
changed? Todays courtrooms, hospitals, and troubled families
painfully remind us to agree with Jesus: a lot of people still have
trouble dealing honestly with reality.
But, Jesus not only knows about the problem
of division, he also understands the problem and has some real keys to the
solution. Read verses 15 through 29. Jesus makes it real clear
there are only two options. You can build your lifes
foundation on what Jesus has to say and successfully enter the kingdom of
heaven. You can build your life on the lies of false prophets and
be exiled from Gods presence, branded by God as a lawless criminal.
In John 12:42-50, Jesus again makes it clear that these are the only
How can we practice dealing with truth and
reality? One helpful habit we should start is plowing the fields of
Farmers plow their fields for several reasons.
Plowing breaks up the grounds surface to allow planting a crop
for harvest. As the soil is tilled, buried rocks are exposed for removal
and the roots of weeds are broken killing the unwanted plants. Cultivation
allows for easier application of nutrients and lets the rainwater soak down
to where the crops roots can use it. Plowing the stubble left
from the previous harvest recycles those nutrients for the next crop to
Likewise, we need to ready our lives for planting
Gods word into our hearts and allowing God to use us for good works.
Some areas that we may have hardened to God need to be broken up and
made receptive to Gods instruction. The stones placed by ignorance,
man-made religion, and vain traditions prevent the seed of Gods word
from growing deep into our understanding. The cares of this world
and the deceitfulness of riches are weeds that, if left unchecked, can choke
Gods influence and make us unfruitful.
Questions are the blades we must use to turn
the soil of our lives fields with our curiosity to sharpen the cutting
edge. The driving force behind these questions comes from our concern
about serving God. Lets ask ourselves a couple of important
questions right now.
- Do I believe truth can and does exist?
is no such thing as truth. Heres a common bumper-sticker
philosophy we all have heard one time or another and maybe even repeated
it ourselves. But
is it a true statement or is it false?
Lets rephrase the issue. Are we
being realistic if we claim to encourage honesty while denying the existence
of truth? If there is no truth, what is there to be honest about?
Truth obviously exists, so why would anyone
insist that it does not? In John 3:19-21, Jesus gives us an answer
that neither compliments such people nor is pretty to consider. And this is the condemnation, that
the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil. For
everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light,
lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth
comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been
done in God.
Now theres an interesting set of opposites
you probably didnt hear about in school. According to what we
just heard Jesus say, the opposite of doing the truth is
So by denying the existence of truth, these
people are denying the existence of evil thereby insisting that they cannot
be condemned for doing anything evil. Certainly you and I can see
through this sort of foolishness.
- Do I have any ability to uncover and
understand at least a small portion of that truth?
is to say whether something is true or not? Same issue as
the discussion above. People who answer this question with Nobody
are really denying that truth can be identified or understood.
If there is no identifiable truth, then there
can be no identifiable evil, and therefore no identifiable reason for condemnation.
Such reasoning is still foolishness. By insisting that no one
is qualified to identify any truth, these people unwittingly claim to have
identified a truth worth insisting upon.
Truth does exist and we do have some ability
to identify some portion of that truth. Our common goal should be
to practice and improve that ability into a valuable skill.
- Does God see real potential in us?
comparing our lives to fields or farmland is used over and over throughout
the Bible. Jesus heavily makes use of it in several of His parables.
The comparison reveals clearly Gods view of our potential to
grow as human beings.
In future articles we will explore further
about plowing the fields of our lives unto harvest. Until then, read
this little story and decide for yourself which farmer best describes you
if the banker describes Jesus.
After several years of poor harvests six neighboring
farms were deep in debt and in danger of foreclosure. The farmers had only
their equipment & weed-infested fields to show for their efforts. One
winter day their banker, Mr. Plenty, sent each of them a letter explaining
that unless his loans were brought current before the coming harvest time,
he would lose his equipment & property. The letter also asked
the farmer to meet with the banker to make arrangements about the overdue
debt and about how the upcoming harvest would apply to that years
Five farmers met with Mr. Plenty as requested,
but Farmer Pouty resisted and refused to attend. Each of the five
explained his situation and asked for a lenient grace period offering to
eventually get caught up on his payments. In each case, the banker
proposed to write off the late payments as paid if the farmer grew his next
crop on behalf of Mr. Plenty. The banker would provide seed, fertilizer,
and a booklet of instructions. The sale of the resulting crop of sweet
corn would then be used to pay that years loan payment and anything
left given to the farmer. All five agreed to obey the terms knowing
the alternative was to loose everything.
Early spring before the last frost, a truck
delivered sweet-corn seed, fertilizer, and an instruction booklet for raising
sweet corn to each of the five farmers exactly as the banker had promised.
Farmer Pouty was a bit upset and complained loudly how the banker
was out to ruin him.
Farmer Softy was very touched by the bankers
efforts to fulfill his promise. As a result, Softy strongly felt a
close friendship with Mr. Plenty and often bragged about the bankers
generosity and patience. Concluding that one so faithful and kind
could never take away his livelihood, the farmer sold his equipment and
then ground the seed into corn meal grateful for his friends gift.
Wanting to be generous himself and feeling sorry for his neighbor,
Softy gave Farmer Pouty the fertilizer and instruction booklet.
Farmer Lazy thought Mr. Plentys proposal
showed real initiative and was excited to receive his supplies. After
glancing through his booklet, Lazy plowed his field. Without the eyesore
weeds his land looked clean and fertile. Then he heard about a new
government program that paid farmers for not growing crops. Attracted
to the idea he felt the easy money would cover his next loan payment with
lots to spare. So Lazy sold his seed to Farmer Pouty and enrolled
in the program. To earn a little extra cash, he started using Mr.
Plentys instruction booklet to teach seminars about growing sweet
Farmer Smarty was happy to get his debt taken
care of and eager to work hard for Mr. Plenty. However, he did disagree
with one of the bankers terms: sweet corn was a big mistake;
soybeans would bring in more money. So after feeding the corn seed
to his hogs, Smarty went to town and found a grain dealer who sold him the
seed he wanted along with two thick books about growing soybeans.
Planting corn was fine with Farmer Wily. The
farmer even figured he could cut a few corners and still make Mr. Plenty
happy. After all, how would a city person like the banker know the
difference between sweet corn for people to eat and field corn for cattle
to eat? So Wily sold the sweet corn seed, bought seed for planting
field corn, and used the difference to attend some of Farmer Lazys
Farmer Thrifty was worried and studied his
instruction booklet carefully. He had never grown sweet corn before
and his land was full of tall weeds & heavy rocks. Burning the
weeds and clearing out the rocks took longer than he expected. He
plowed several times before the ground was ready for planting. Until
the tender shoots reached knee-high, Thrifty spent many late nights cultivating
several rows of stunted growth trying to fight the weeds that kept creeping
in from Farmer Softys field. About the time he thought the crop
was developing nicely, he discovered that several acres along Farmer Wilys
property had cross-pollinated with the field corn. Concerned that
the banker would refuse any crop other than the specified sweet corn, Thrifty
plowed those acres under to prevent them from being harvested by mistake.
Complaining all the while about the bankers
lack of compassion, Farmer Pouty carefully prepared his ground, planted
the seed he bought from Farmer Lazy, and used the fertilizer that Farmer
Softy gave him. Pouty seemed to lack the problems Farmer Thrifty had
and his sweet corn grew tall and bountiful. He felt certain that the
harvest would easily pay for the years loan payment and perhaps some
of the older debt as well.
Summer passed. The day before the harvest
was set to begin, Mr. Plenty visited the farms to claim what was due him.
Upon seeing Farmer Softys field overgrown
with weeds, the banker ordered him off the property. To the farmers
loud protests Mr. Plenty replied, you knew I keep my promises, even
this promise. So why did you break your promise to me?
Where is the crop you agreed to plant
for me? was the question Farmer Lazy could not answer as he was escorted
off the land that had been his.
Farmer Smarty fully expected to be praised
for his ingenuity instead of angrily led off his farm. When
he asked about what was the problem, he heard, How can you believe
you planted this crop on my behalf when this is not the crop I gave you
Farmer Wily grinned smugly as he waited in
front of his tall green corn field. His smile faded quickly as Mr.
Plenty peeled back the husk from an ear and tasted a kernel. Sending
him to join the other evicted farmers the banker asked, Are you so
foolish to think I would not know enough to harvest sweet corn when I knew
well enough to send you sweet-corn seed?
Farmer Thrifty nervously watched during his
fields inspection and to his surprise the banker failed to mention
the bare acres or any rows of stunted plants. His surprise fast become
excitement as Mr. Plenty told him, This is the crop you agreed to
plant for me. Youve done your best following my instructions
for raising it. Please stay on to manage the harvest and to prepare
these five fields for next years harvest.
When Farmer Pouty saw what happened to Farmer
Thrifty, he expected to also be praised and rewarded for his well-cared
field of sweet corn. However, the banker sadly told him, Your
debt is long overdue, and you have made no arrangements to take care of
it. You accuse me of lacking compassion. You take advantage
of the compassion I show others, while you turn down opportunities to receive
my compassion for yourself. Get off my property!