Planters, Precipitants, Pruners, Pickers, and Performers?
Jesus and the New Testament writers often used agricultural illustrations to teach lessons of duty and reward: the Sower in Matthew 13:3ff; the Vine and Branches in John 15:1-8; and the Hard-Working and Patient Farmer in 2Timothy 2:6 and James 5:7 serve as just a few examples. The agrarian-based society of the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry provided fertile fields for planting the seed through these kinds of analogies. But we probably need to consider more closely some of the specific jobs included in these illustrations, and what they should mean to us…
Planters. The seed is the word of God, Luke 8:11. When it was planted in our hearts, if they were the good soil (honest and soft), it germinated and gestated long enough to break through into an obedient Christian. This fledging plant was then watered, and if it stayed relatively free of the disease of sin for a while, it grew into a mature plant. Now, what does a mature plant do? It bears fruit of course! It may produce copious amounts of foliage and flowers while still growing, but mature plants bear fruit, John 15:8. Why is this so important for us to understand? Flowers and foliage are pretty to look at, but what’s inside the fruit? More seed! It’s called the parable of “the sower” (cf. Matthew 13:18) rather than the soils for a reason- we’re supposed to be sowers or planters rather than soil-testers! How did the seed get beside the road, in the rocky ground, and among the thorns? The sower sowed it in those places too because he was sower rather than a soil-tester! Folks, we’ll never enjoy a harvest if we content ourselves with just lazily eating the seed- it has to also be sown. Are you a planter?
Precipitants. For seed to germinate and grow into a mature plant, somebody has to water it. Paul made this clear in 1Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered….” Apollos was the precipitant (the agent that provides precipitation). This doesn’t mean that Apollos provided the Corinthians water baptism (cf. Acts 18:1-11), but it does mean that Apollos provided the continuing nutrition needed for these young Christian plants to grow toward maturity. Every Christian needs to grow (cf. 2Peter 3:18), and thus needs precipitation. More mature precipitants can and should be great assets to them by providing continuing education in, and continuing edification with, the word of God. Barnabas was evidently also a great waterer, Acts 4:36! Are you a precipitant?
Pruners. In John 15:1-8, Jesus presents a word-picture of not only who He is, but also of our necessary relationship to Him and what it entails. He is the vine, and we are the branches. To bear fruit, the branch must first be on the vine, or attached to Him, v.4. However, we must also be aware that: 1) branches that are unproductive are taken away/removed from Him, v.2a; and, 2) those that are productive get pruned so they can bear even more fruit, v.2b. For those less acquainted with agriculture and horticulture, pruning does not mean to throw dried plums. Instead, it means to cut off or cut back parts for better shaping, strength, and productivity. This pruning occurs when we are reproved, rebuked, and admonished with the word, 2Timothy 3:16. The word of God is the pruning instrument (cf. Hebrews 4:12), but it usually requires someone proficient to wield it to achieve the full and greatest effect. Thus, we admonish one another with and through the word, as God commanded, to be more productive. Are you willing to prune?
Pickers. Jesus told His disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that are white for harvest,” John 4:35. The point is that there was an immediate need for reapers. We’re mixing metaphors- reapers are for grain, but fruit has pickers, but in either case, the kingdom still has an urgent need for pickers! These are NOT pluckers of stringed instruments, but harvesters of souls in which the seed has been planted, and have been well precipitated (watered) to the point of being harvested for the Lord. Are a picker?
But what isn’t mentioned in the text is Performers. Planters, precipitators, pruners, and pickers are using the Word of God as seed, life-giving water, a pruning hook, and the reaping instrument of souls. But performers use it, to the degree that they do so at all, as a tool for self-promotion. And yet, performing is all some want do- sing or dance or whatever puts them in the spotlight. The vineyard of the Lord doesn’t need performers. If it did the New Testament would include instructions for solos, praise dancing, plays and dramatic presentations. But it does need those willing to plant the seed, water, prune, and harvest. Let’s be planters, precipitants, pruners, and pickers instead of performers!