Not Yours to Complete

by Lois Tverberg

“Do you not say, `Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying `One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4:35-38

Anyone who looks at the world as it is today can see the enormous need for God to send out his people to help redeem it. Enormous numbers of people need to know the gospel, broken families and broken people need help, and the hungry need to be fed. Just hearing about the devastation of an earthquake or tsunami is overwhelming – how can these people ever recover?

Natural Disaster Wreckage

A wise saying regarding this comes from the Mishnah:”The task is not yours to complete, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirke Avot 2:21) It means that we should not use the excuse that our help might be futile to decide to do nothing. We might say that our money, time and effort are just drops in an ocean of need — why bother? But as Jesus reminded his disciples in today’s passage, the disciples were building on the work of others who didn’t live to see the finished product of their faithfulness. We reap from others’ efforts, and those following us will reap from ours.

We may despair that there is any point to doing the little things, like sending a few dollars to help with disaster relief, or caring for an elderly neighbor’s needs. Or we may feel like if we discuss our faith with a non-believer but did not “pray the sinner’s prayer,” our efforts are wasted. But Paul says that he planted and another (Apollos) watered, but God gave the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-7). God’s plans are much greater than we could ever imagine, and he only expects each of us to do our part in them. All he asks it that we be faithful in what we are given, and let him work through others to accomplish the rest.

Photo: Trocaire