“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
I have a confession to make – one that’s a little embarrassing. Whenever I read Matthew 9:37-38, I always translated “worker” as “full-time vocational Christian worker”. That’s what happens when you are in full-time ministry for 28 years. It’s what happens when you work for an organization that you believe in and where you want others to join you and so you recruit them to be “workers” too. That’s what you pray for – for more “full-time vocational workers”.
But I think I was wrong.
Recently, I went to The Gospel Coalition Conference and Harry Reeder (pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham) used this verse in a workshop about Faith and Work. Have you ever had the word of God speak to you so quickly and forcefully that it’s almost like a slap in the face? That’s what happened to me in that workshop room. As I sat there, it struck me that I even as I had been starting a ministry to women in the workforce, I hadn’t thought about using this verse to encourage them about their purpose. I had been defining the word “worker” incorrectly.
Jesus isn’t looking just for vocational laborers – important as they are, and I don’t discount that since I am one myself. Jesus is looking for ANY laborers. And by that He means anyone who knows Him and is willing to take the gospel into the harvest wherever it is. And that may be your workplace. Or it may be your neighborhood. Or it may be somewhere else in your community. All of those areas need more laborers. And I believe that there is a harvest there – even if it may be a small one, even if it may be a slow-growing one. Because Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, and we need to believe Him even if we don’t always feel or see it.
The fact is that you likely have the opportunity to reach someone who may never be reached by a vocational Christian worker or missionary. Your co-worker might never feel comfortable walking into a church, but they may feel comfortable hearing the gospel from you. Your neighbor might never cross the path of a pastor, but they cross your path on a regular basis.
I think being a worker or laborer in the harvest is more about our heart, our availability, our consistency, and our willingness to step out in faith and take the initiative to talk to someone about Christ than it is about where we are or what our vocation is.
Maybe you would make the same confession I did – that you always saw this verse and thought it didn’t apply to you because you are in a secular job. But I want to encourage you to see it as applying to you. To see where you work and live as a place of harvest and a place where Jesus wants you to be a worker.
I spent years praying for vocational Christian laborers. Many of the people I prayed for joined with my organization or went to seminary and are now pastors which is thrilling. But now I’m also going to pray for laborers where I live – for harvest workers in offices and companies and on job sites and in neighborhoods. Because truly the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.