In the process of seedtime and harvest, there are many steps necessary to produce “bumper crops.” Bumper, as it pertains to farming, refers to a very large yield. Another meaning denotes the concept of being outstanding, such as a bumper (banner) year. Abundance is a hallmark of God’s providence and the principle of growth in His universe.
Preparing the Soil for the Seed
Agriculture throughout the ages has always involved cultivating the soil for the optimum reception of the seed, as well as the management of the growth and health of the crop. Good soil, good seed, and good farming all contribute to a bountiful harvest. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains four different types of soil, the necessary foundation in the farming process:
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
While good soil won’t always produce a hundredfold yield because of unforeseen variables, it will still bear an abundant harvest. Good soil and good seed, along with good management and care, will go a long way in producing bountiful results. A seasoned farmer will adjust accordingly to droughts, weeds, insects, and severe weather. While it might be hard at first to imagine ourselves as soil, we can apply the four “conditions” to our readiness to receive the good seed that is God’s Word.
Do All We Are Commanded
If we, as followers of Christ, do everything that we are supposed to do in “tilling the soil” of our hearts, we will then be ready at the starting point of bearing good fruit for God’s kingdom. While the work of preparing our soil encompasses hard work and perseverance, we must always be aware that it is only the first step in a process that involves much more. Perhaps the foundational work that we do in the way of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in and of itself, is worth little. A perfectly prepared field “awaits” good seed to be sown. Without any seed, the soil is worthless. Jesus explains what little value our works have without God’s involvement in the Gospel of Luke:
“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” (Luke 17:7-10)
These words of Jesus, seemingly harsh, point toward communion and covenant. Our part of the “partnership” with God is to do all that we are commanded to do. Following all of God’s commandments, even to the letter, only predisposes us to a position of receptivity. We are still in need of God’s mysterious, providential action in our lives.
The Work of a Lifetime
Let us pray to be fertile ground, ready and willing to receive God’s Word, and to nurture the growth of Faith, Hope, and Love in our lives. Tilling the soil of our hearts is the work of a lifetime. We trust that good soil, good seed, and reliance on God’s divine assistance will assure bumper crops for years to come.