The Answer May Surprise You.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Other posts have discussed whether there is still a harvest and what a worker is. The question here is, where do workers come from? How do we come to have the additional workers Jesus said are needed? The answer may not be what we are expecting.
The first truth to notice is that it is not us but the Lord of the harvest who sends out the workers (Matthew 9:38). Perhaps you, like me, are prone to think of Christianity primarily in terms of what we do. It is instructive, sobering, and helpful to notice that Jesus is the one who sends out the workers.
Although we may resist this truth a bit, it also takes pressure off of us and protects us from resorting to worldly means of producing workers. There is no need for us to strong-arm people or guilt them into being workers. Cooperating with the Lord’s work also protects the world from having to endure workers who don’t really want to work and who may, consequently, do more harm than good. The principle is the same as a waitress who resents being pressured into working a Friday night against her will and as hurts the restaurant more than helping it because of her attitude. We need to recognize and be okay with the Lord being the one who recruits and sends out workers.
Second, we are to pray for workers (v. 38). As with many aspects of Christianity, the Lord has a part but so do we. His part is to send out workers. Our part is to pray. The word here is not the usual word for praying (proseuchomai). Instead, it is an intense word (deomai) that is sometimes translated beseech, supplicate, beg or plead. ESV captures the meaning of this single word with the phrase “pray earnestly.” Jesus here gives us something clear, practical, and vital to do to help the broken world: pray earnestly for workers. How and how much we pray for workers indicates something about how important we think workers are and whether we believe the Lord of the harvest will send them out. I urge you to add this to your ongoing prayers.
Third, workers must be equipped. This is less obvious due to the unfortunate chapter division between Matthew 9 and 10. Immediately after stating the need for workers and calling us to pray for them (end of Matthew 9), Jesus instructs the twelve and sends them out as workers (Matthew 10).
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. We are called on to cooperate with the Lord to increase the number of workers. He will send them out, but we are to pray earnestly that he will do so. We can also equip and be equipped for work in the harvest field. But how do we do that? Read on.