“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” (John 4:35-36)
Two repeated illustrations throughout the New Testament speak to the mindset of the Christian laborer. The military picture is found frequently in the epistles and uses some of the warlike examples from the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus, however, more often uses stories or applications from the agricultural lifestyle. He gave the above classic illustration to His apostles after He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-37).
Even the more businesslike parables of the talents and the minas use the generic servants of a nobleman or prince who instructs them to “do business” until he returns (Luke 19:13). What is not said, but would be well known by the population of Jesus’ day, is that the wealth of the nobleman came from land ownership and farming or ranching that land. Yes, there were manufacturing businessmen during that era (like Paul, who made tents), but the bulk of the wealth came through working the land.
Thus the emphasis on agricultural illustrations.
One of the points made by our Lord Jesus was that we will share in the “profits” of the Kingdom. In the illustration given to the apostles at the Samaritan well, the Lord noted that there were different skills and different equipment necessary to bring the farming enterprise to fruition. Sowing took place a long time before reaping, yet both were necessary to pay the wages of both sets of laborers. Paul recognized the importance of the middle process when he noted that the laborer who waters is one with the person who plants (1 Corinthians 3:8-9). All of the different processes are necessary to produce the fruit that provides the profit that pays the wages of everyone.
Obviously, the Lord was using an earthly illustration to make clear an eternal and spiritual point. The sowing of the “seed” of the Word of God (Luke 8:11) through the Kingdom of God is a vast process (Acts 1:8) and cannot be accomplished by one person, one church, or one support group (1 Corinthians 12:21-22). Many different churches and organizations will be involved in making disciples “to the end of the earth,” and the labor involved to do that must be underwritten by those in the Kingdom (Malachi 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Hebrews 6:10).
I grew up in a family that tithed their income. My father, ICR’s founder, practiced double tithing—giving a tenth of his gross income to his church and a tenth to Christian organizations that met the biblical criterion of “seeking the Kingdom first” (Matthew 6:33). As you might suspect, the Institute for Creation Research was a beneficiary of a significant portion of that second tithe. And when he provided for his family through his will, one of the “children” was ICR. The blessings followed as God opened the “windows of heaven” (Malachi 3:10), and his family and ministry “reaped bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6) well beyond mere financial return into the true riches of eternal impact on the souls of men.
Although some have argued that the New Testament does not obligate a Christian to tithe, it does seem strange that the Lord Jesus would commend the self-righteous Pharisees for their tithing practices—even though they had left undone the more important matters of “justice, mercy, and faith” (Matthew 23:23). And the apostle Paul encouraged a proportionate giving by members of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 16:2), with the only proportion ever taught in the Scriptures being the tithe. Many have concluded that the tithe is only the starting place for our Kingdom investment.
However one believes about giving a tenth of their income to the Lord’s work, there should not be any argument about the responsibility to give. Whatever you give should begin with your church. Yes, it is incumbent on fathers to provide for their families, but part of faithful godliness is ensuring that a regular portion of the prospering that God permits is invested in the matters of the King—His church.
Using the plentiful illustrations of the agricultural lifestyle, the reaping at the harvest comes after long hours of sowing and watering (amid months of careful attention to the health of the crop). James encouraged his readers to follow the example of “how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain” (James 5:7). The Kingdom “farmer” must always have the eternal perspective in view.
The famous parable of the sower recorded in each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) gives us a very clear picture of how God sees our work as Kingdom farmers sowing the “seed” of God’s Word (Luke 8:11). The sowing process spreads the biblical message wherever possible, but some seed falls on the wayside where “the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts” (Luke 8:12). Other efforts fall among rocky soil, generating a quick response from those who hear, but “these have no root” and after a season of joy become withered spiritually “and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13).
There seems to be some success when the seed is sown among thorns, but as the seeds begin to sprout and start to mature, they are “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). But ultimately, there are some who genuinely respond to the seed that falls on “good ground...[and] having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). And as Matthew’s gospel records, they “yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8).
ICR’s Sowing and Your Watering during 2016
Coming full circle to the principle that Jesus established with His apostles after His witness to the Samaritan woman, ICR has been “sowing” among several fields, and you have been “watering” our efforts with your prayers and financial support. Here’s a quick overview of our “reaping” together.
This is the heart of ICR’s sowing. Our science team is involved in three major research areas: astronomy and physics, biology and genomics, and geology. Each of these disciplines is focused on unanswered questions that will add more substance to the evidence for the accuracy and authenticity of the Scriptures. As progress is made, our scientists prepare articles, technical papers, and presentation materials that can be disseminated through our international outreach efforts.
Most of you are familiar with the monthly Acts & Facts and quarterly Days of Praise. These publications are read by nearly 500,000 people. In addition to these publications, our Communications staff produced five new books, several That’s a Fact videos, 65 new radio programs, weekly creation science updates, and 15 new DVDs, along with the third of our professional teaching video sets, Uncovering the Truth about Dinosaurs. ICR’s website readership and social media outreach are growing each day.
ICR was in 100 different venues during 2016, speaking to well over 100,000 people and either selling or giving away nearly 35,000 books and DVDs. Some events were single presentations, usually in church pulpits, academic chapels, or classrooms across the nation. Many were two- or three-day seminars in larger churches or regional auditoriums where we had the privilege of providing more intense training and exposure to the fruit of our current research.
Ready for 2017
As readers of Acts & Facts know, ICR is preparing to start construction on the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History. The property is secured, the plans have been designed, and the permits obtained. Much of the funding has either been raised or already spent on the property, plans, and artifacts that will be part of the new center. The Lord has encouraged a faithful donor to provide a $4 million matching gift that, when fulfilled, will enable us to begin construction.
Almost everything is in place. All of our “farmers” are working diligently to sow as much of the seed as we are able. You who water and co-labor with us are faithful to support and undergird us with your gifts and your prayers. The work is not yet done—indeed, it must continue until the Lord returns. We are all under “contract” to “do business till I come” (Luke 19:13).
*Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.