One of my favorite stories growing up was The Little Red Hen. This is an American fable recorded in the St. Nicholas Magazine back in 1874. The author, Mary Makes Dodge, shared that this was as story her mother made up to teach her and her siblings the value of hard work.
The story over the years has been rewritten but the moral has stayed the same. A hen finds some seeds on the ground and decides she will bake bread with it. She requests help from the other farmyard animals in each stage of the process. Will you help me plant? Will you help me harvest? Will you help me take it to the mill? Will you help me bake the bread? All the other animals responded with "Not I."
However, when the bread was finished and the smell was wafting through the barnyard, she asks one more question, "Who will help me eat this bread?" To which they all respond with, "I will!" She lets them know that only those who helped in the process would be enjoying the bread.
I remember hearing this story from the time I was little. I have since read it to my own children. I want to instill in them the value of hard work. I want them to learn that there is merit in the process itself and not only found when you have an end product. I want them to understand that when you have worked for something, the enjoyment is far greater.
These principles are echoed in Ecclesiastes 11:4 which tells us;
"One who watches the wind will not sow,
and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap." (All passages taken from CSB)
If a person is always looking up or looking around at other things they will miss what is right in front of them to do. They then end up missing the sowing season which means there is then no harvest to reap.
Paul when talking about being generous in our giving to the Lord says
"The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously" - 2 Corinthians 9:6
There is a connection to our intentional focus on the harvest and the end results. We can't always have our head in the clouds or always be distracted by everything that is going on, sometimes we just need to roll up our sleeves and get planting. You won't have a harvest is there isn't any effort.
Planting is hard work. You get dirty while preparing the field. Your back hurts as you bend over to plant each seed. You sweat as you carry the heavy buckets of water. Your arms ache as you harvest the field. But at the end of it all, you can sit back and see the results of your hard work. It is tiring work. Galatians 6:9 tells us that, "Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up."
Sometimes we just need to put in the work. We need to help along the way so that there truly is a harvest at the end of the season.
This was a lesson that Jesus had to teach to his disciples and I believe all disciples throughout history must learn the same lesson. It is recorded in John 4:35-38;
“Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, and then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.”
In this case the harvest is ready and they missed it because they were worried more about food than souls. They missed that there were many in the city ready to accept the teaching of Jesus because they were focused on something else - their heads were in the clouds. Jesus used the imagery of the harvest to raise their awareness of sowing and reaping eternal things.
Let us not grow tired of doing good, because at the right time there will be a harvest to gather if only we are willing to put in the work.
Let us be more like the red hen, "No one else will do it?" It's ok, "I'll do it myself," than like the lazy barn animals, "Not I."