As one who gardens, I often marvel at the process. In the spring I till the ground and bury small seeds under the soil. Over the next few weeks the plants grow and vegetables are produced. I sometimes think, as I eat the beans I’ve harvested, of the phenomenon I’ve witnessed. Out of inedible dirt has come nourishing food for me and my family.
The wise man had this in mind in Proverbs 13:23: “Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, and for lack of justice there is waste” (NKJV). The first part of the proverb is what we’ve described: the wonder of being able to make food appear out of the ground. The second part points to unrealized potential. It speaks of soil that could do much good, but instead lies fallow (untilled).
Why was this ground not put to work? There are two views of what the writer had in mind. First, some say that the injustice of others has kept the poor man from working his field. Someone seized his assets and that is why he remains poor. Others argue that “justice” is better translated as “judgment.” It refers to the landowner’s slothfulness. His lack of industriousness keeps the food in the soil. What might have been will never be because he is lazy or distracted by other pursuits.
In either event, God has provided a resource that has the potential to bless many. How sad when those resources are wasted!
Many Christians have learned the fine art of “poor mouthing.” When asked about their involvement in the work of the kingdom, they reply that they’re not capable of doing the work. Someone else will have to carry the burden. But is that really true? Are there some who have been given no resources at all?
Peter answered that question clearly: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). In the next verse he mentioned two such gifts: speaking (whether in preaching or in conversation), and ministering our various gifts to others. No one, though, can truthfully claim to be without any gifts at all.
As I dig potatoes from the soil in the fall, I’m made aware of the grace of God. Energy invested in tilling the ground will bless me and others whom I love. But will I also till the spiritual soil God has provided? Using these resources, I’ll bring blessings upon myself and others.
How sad to see rich soil left untended!
We could do more with what God has provided us.