The Irresponsible Farmer
Imagine a farmer wants to produce a crop. Day after day, he wanders out into the field to go on a walk. He begins to become frustrated as nothing is produced. Isn’t he is at least having a good impact on the soil when he wanders out each day? Maybe one day he will drop a seed, but only when he feels the time is right. After all, he would feel quite embarrassed if he put out any seed on bad soil. After a while, he almost entirely forgets about trying to produce a crop, and the morning venture into the field to plant seed becomes more of a ritualistic walk in the park.
He joins a community of other farmers who do not even remember their role. They meet regularly to discuss their daily walk. On rare occasions, someone will bring up a discussion about planting or watering seed. This can shock the system of a group of walkers. The majority of the group will agree it is what they need to do, but nothing really changes. At best, a few group members look a little more intently for the ideal soil, but they do it as a side thing during their morning walk and typically do not cast out any seed. The group eventually becomes skilled in the daily walk, but they still do not remember that the point of the walk is to produce a crop. Some of them may even develop extensive theory about farming, but it never moves beyond theory. They genuinely want to walk in the right way, so they meet together frequently to study. They gather to hear inspirational speakers articulate how to best walk in the field. They hang out together and go to events together, and they celebrate the community they have formed as a group of committed walkers. In all of this, they have forgotten they are farmers.
If another farmer comes along and reminds them to do their job, they’ll insist they already are doing so. After all, they take a walk in the field every day! Isn’t that farming? It’s all they’ve ever known, and no one else is doing anything differently. True farming is a distant memory, so they may even look at such a dedicated farmer and consider him to be abnormally obsessed. They’ll either conclude he has lost his mind or look to him as an inspiration. Nevertheless, they may agree to spend a day in the field with him or listen to stories of what he is doing. But either way, they conclude that he is incredibly gifted at farming. It’s certainly not for everyone, right? I mean, that was just his way of farming. All the other “walkers” believe they are farming in their own special way. The lack of seed scattering would strongly suggest otherwise, but they conclude it must just be something the other farmer feels passionate about. “I sure am glad he’s doing that” is the repeated refrain with no realization that they should be doing it too. The dedicated farmer continues to plead with the walkers to own their role as farmers. “I just don’t know if that’s for me,” they respond as they consider how abundantly scattering seed might disrupt their daily walk. After all, they want to make sure they steward the walk time well and still have time to “do life” with their walking community.
Those who are living in this context while desiring to be a farmer begin to run into all sorts of confusion. Some of them may begin to feel passionate about producing a crop, but they continue to do the same things and hope it just happens. Others might even seek out a group or program focused on seed sowing, watering, or gathering. This may result in more farming activity, but often it is just a piece of farming with no crop in mind. The relegation of these activities to a special group or program perpetuates the idea that farming is a separate activity outside the context of the daily walk in the field. In other words, it is optional. Others hear of a crop being produced and assume that a special brand of seed is the cause. They hear of a new brand and may even show it to their fellow walkers in hopes that it will be the difference maker. But none of them are using any seed - at least not abundantly enough to see a crop. They fail to realize that while the specific brand of seed may be better for producing a crop, it is only useful when it is actually planted. They may purchase the new brand, but they are still just going for a walk. Frustrated and in search of something different, some walkers may travel to other fields in far-away places. That is where the real farming is taking place, right? But they have no plan to scatter seed, water it, and gather it. They may call it farming and even ask for money to go do it. But they have never farmed at home! Why would they suddenly do it when sent somewhere else? They revert to old habits, and the new field amounts to nothing but a change of scenery for their daily walk. By some miracle, they may plant a couple of seeds or even become inspired to start farming in their own field. With a lack of intention, however, the farming activity is sporadic and does not sustain.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons why the situation has become what it is. Maybe farming societies and regulators have placed too many barriers on the average person. Maybe when these societies use complex terminology, the everyday walker no longer feels qualified or educated enough to scatter seed, water it, and gather the crop. At worst, maybe some of these institutions specifically tell people not to do it. Or perhaps some farmers become so skilled in one piece of the process that they refuse to show others how to do it too. Giving it away to others would threaten their own work! They do not work the entire process, but why would they? They have become a renowned expert in one part. They attract a following of walkers who know neither their role nor how to do it. Because these skilled workers refuse to equip the others, the masses of farmers conclude it is no longer their job to do anything but faithfully walk in the field. No matter what the reason is, there is a need for change because the job has been abandoned. There is a need for every individual walker to turn and begin intentionally farming.
Eventually, there are those who begin to become discontent with the daily walk. They know it is important and they hold it to high value, but they begin to question where it is heading: “Am I really supposed to go on walks every day for the rest of my life as I hang out with my community? Surely, there will be no crop that way. Surely, I am meant for more. What even is my identity? Oh yeah! I’m a farmer!” Other walkers may attempt to talk them down: “Aw bud, don’t sell yourself short! You are farming in your own way already. Don’t underestimate your impact! Think about how faithful you’ve been in walking every day. There is validity in that!” What a cunning deception mixed with pieces of the truth! They are meant for much more than a casual life of walking, but they’re missing out on seeing the crop. Let us not forget our identity! Be the farmer! A farmer works the field intentionally. He is the one who gets to see the marvelous mystery in which the earth produces by itself. He abundantly scatters the seed, tends to the crop, gathers the crop, and plans for the next field.
There is no accident. He meant to do it.
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 2 Timothy 2:2-6