Paying attention to the Therefores
One of the things I've learned when reading scripture is to pay attention the therefores (or as Bible Teacher Bob Mumford puts it "Whenever you see a therefore, check to see what it's there for"), particularly when they occur in Jesus' teaching. Especially interesting are what I call the 'practical therefores'. These take the form "This is true, therefore your practical response to it should be this". In some translations the 'therefore' is expressed more as 'because of this' or 'for this reason' or similar. In the New Testament, at least, there are several Greek expressions that can be translated as 'therefore', and some translations will try to distinguish them by using different wording. But the idea is still there: Because this is true, you should do this as a result.
When you see this, you're got an opportunity to
- See what God's logic is in this situation, and
- Contrast it with typical human logic in this situation
For example, let's look at Mat 9:37,38(NASV):
Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."The situation Jesus is talking about is familiar to a lot of people: there's a lot of work to be done, and not enough people working on it. I'm sure anyone who has had even a minor leadership position in the church has found themselves in this position. Our usual reaction ranges from pestering friends and acquaintances to get involved, to organizing recruiting campaigns, to blistering preaching that tries to induce guilt into those who aren't yet involved. Somewhat like Martha, we may find ourselves trying to pull into our work people who aren't called into the same work we are doing.
Jesus' logical response to this situation will seem simplistic to some: Pray. But I'm convinced from what follows that He is being quite practical.
First, note the emphasis on who is in charge. It's mentioned twice in one sentence ('Lord of the harvest', and 'His harvest'), which strikes me as a deliberate emphasis. In the face of temptations to regard the work as our own (or to feel like the burden is entirely on us), we're to remember that it belongs to God and He is in charge.
Second, the Greek word here translated 'send out' implies forcefull action. It is used, for example, for expelling an invading army from a city. In this context, I'd be tempted to translate it 'shove out'. I can't think of anything that would be more indicative of a practical knowledge of how these things work. If, in a 'lots of work, few workers' situation you've ever found yourself wanting to grab some people and shove them out into the field, know that the Lord knows exactly how you feel. Some people simply have to be forced to do the work. It's just that He reserves the right to do the shoving, and to choose who gets shoved, for Himself.