“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 4:34-35 NKJV).
Harvesting of the IRRI rice crop in Bangladesh is well underway at this time. This is one of three or four seasonal harvests in this semi-tropical country. IRRI rice is a variety (or group of varieties) developed by the International Rice Research Institute for production in what was formerly an “off-season” for rice. It has become an important part of the agricultural economy of Bangladesh.
When rice has matured and is ready for gathering, almost everything else is put on hold. Laborers who are available for work at other times are in the fields, busily gathering the crop. School children may miss classes and others may be absent from normal jobs as all possible labor is called upon. Churches may reschedule their assemblies so that their members can help with the harvest.
The urgency of such work is obvious and undisputed. Harvesting a ripe crop cannot be postponed without serious loss. In the passage quoted above Jesus pointed out that there is more than one kind of crop, and more than one kind of harvest. He also noted that the same urgency applies to a spiritual harvest as to one of material crops.
There is a window of opportunity for reaching anyone who is in need of the Gospel. It is not always obvious when that window is open. We cannot predict how long it will remain open. We do not know how long our own ability to sow and reap will continue. All of these factors contribute to the urgency of our task.
If we really look at the world around us we will see fields ready for reaping. They may be in our own communities. They may be far away from us. As the farmer monitors his fields regularly, choosing carefully the best time to begin the harvest, so should God’s laborers be alert to “whitened fields.”
It is a serious matter when a farmer loses a crop or a portion of it because he did not begin to gather at the right time. It is an eternal matter when Christians allow opportunities for preaching the Gospel to willing audiences to go unused. Good workers receive a reward (salary) for their labor. Both they and those whom they gather into God’s fellowship are greatly blessed.