Someone who S.H.A.R.E.s.
Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). I believe both halves of his statement are true where I live today. We need more workers. Before we rush into how to get them, we need to pause long enough to ask, Just what is a worker?
In the context of Matthew 9, the best answer to that question is that a worker is someone who does what Jesus had been doing. There are various ways we might describe Jesus’ ministry, but Matthew’s inspired summary here is that Jesus was going through all the towns and villages, “teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35). This threefold description of Jesus’ ministry seems all the more noteworthy since Matthew summarized it almost verbatim elsewhere (4:23).
Soon after the summary of Jesus’ work in Matthew 9, he sent out the twelve to do the second and third of these aspects of ministry (Matthew 10:7-8). Perhaps the omission of the first aspect, teaching, is coincidental. Or perhaps the twelve did not yet understand the nature of his kingdom well enough to be teaching it. Regardless, Jesus sent them out to do something very similar to what they had seen him doing. And he refers to them directly as “workers” (Matthew 10:10, same word as 9:37).
A worker, then, is someone who does the same things Jesus was doing. After pondering Matthew’s summary of Jesus’ ministry quite a bit, I am very comfortable with the threefold division and the wording he used to describe it. Today we might refer to these same three aspects of ministry, respectively, as, 1) spiritual formation, teaching, or edification, 2) evangelism, telling the good news, or witnessing and 3) serving, helping people or benevolence.
Matthew’s comment that Jesus saw people and had compassion on them is also significant (v. 36). Jesus didn’t merely do the duties of ministry. He noticed real, live human beings, and felt and showed authentic compassion for them.
Putting all this together paints a picture of what it means to be a worker that emerges directly from Jesus in Scripture. I use an acronym based on the word SHARE to remember and teach it. According to Matthew 9:35-38, being a worker entails:
Seeing people. Notice them and assess them as Jesus did (v. 36).
Having Compassion. Feeling it and showing it (v. 36)
Attesting to the reality of God’s kingdom with our deeds (v. 35)
Relating the truth of God’s kingdom with our words (v. 35)
Explaining/Equipping the subjects of the kingdom (v. 35)
So, to be a worker, according to Matthew 9, is to SHARE. SHARE is an appropriate word for remembering it because, as Jesus said when he trained the first twelve workers, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
So this is what a worker is. But where do workers come from? Read on.