In Matthew 9:37, Jesus turned to his disciples, declaring: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. What is the Son of God really saying through his metaphor? How does this verse relate to us today? Let’s explore the deeper meaning!
The meaning of “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37)
Biblical context of Matthew 9:37
It’s always key for us to examine the wider context of any Bible verse – in this case, the situation that led to Matthew 9:37.
First, in Matthew 9:35, we see how Jesus travels to a vast number of places. He teaches and shares the gospel of God’s kingdom to all who will hear, also healing every unwell person.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.Matthew 9:35
Jesus’ amazing sermons and miracles lead to huge groups gathering around him everywhere he goes.
As he looks out over the crowd, our Messiah is filled with a profound and deep compassion. He sees how lost the people around him are, like sheep being led astray without a shepherd.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:36
By seeing people as lost, Jesus isn’t telling us about the lack of Google maps back then. Heh.
Instead, this is God’s metaphor. It describes how every person is spiritually lost without the Good Shepherd – that is, without Jesus. In addition, Jesus is also holding the failed spiritual leaders of Israel accountable for willfully leading people astray.
The above events set the context for Matthew 9:37.
So what does Jesus really mean when he says “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37)?
Jesus then turns to his disciples, telling them the harvest is already abundant. However, there is only a small handful of laborers willing to go out to gather the ready crops. By this, the Son of God is actually saying there is in fact a ripe harvest of spiritually lost people. They are hungry to know God’s kingdom and yearn for a good shepherd to lead them. However, rather than point them to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, most believers do not actively reach out to share the Good News of salvation with them.
But Jesus offers a heavenly solution to this labor shortage. He tells his followers to humbly pray to God, asking Him to call upon more workers to share the Gospel and bring home the spiritually lost.
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”Matthew 9:38
How does Matthew 9:37 relate to us today?
The truth is: our heavenly Father can sovereignly decide to welcome anyone he chooses into His kingdom at any time. God doesn’t technically need our help for anything. I mean, He’s God after all.
However, He has chosen to freely invite all His believers to be joyous co-laborers of His spiritual harvest. Thus, any follower of Christ can get involved in God’s work in helping the lost.
Yes, this includes each of us today! Amid the chaos and untruths of modern life, people are in need of Jesus to bring true peace to their lives. Perhaps now more than any other period in history!
Just like how our Messiah spoke to anyone who would listen (Matthew 9:35), we too can also tell others around us about God’s desire for them to know and follow Him.
There are many practical ways we can do this. Here’s three!
1. Pray for more laborers of God’s harvest.
As Jesus tells us, we should all ask God to send out more believers to help people in spiritual need, spreading the Gospel everywhere they go.
Regularly praying for more workers also expresses our genuine heart for others to come to know and glorify Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Praying according to Matthew 9:37 also builds our own faith. We must believe God will bless our hope for an increase in harvest workers, since it is in accordance to His heavenly will (John 9:31; 1 John 5:15).
2. Share the Gospel with others.
God also welcomes all of us to be proactive in spreading the Good News to others (Matthew 28:16-20; Matthew 24:14). We should take initiative, as the Holy Spirit leads.
Of course, not everyone is called by God to be a literal missionary, travelling to far-flung and remote places. He may ask some to do so – but not all.
However, we are all able to freely share our faith and testimony with family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, and other people who may not truly know Christ… yet!
To be clear, we should never bang our Bibles over people’s heads, dogmatically forcing them to listen.
Instead, there are many loving and pragmatic ways to spread the Gospel amid our everyday lives.
For example, we can always reach out to a friend facing struggles, showing sincere care for them. If God wills, this can also be a chance to share how Jesus can help him / her find true peace in his / her life.
We can also seek to lead more Christ-like daily lives. By desiring this, we start to shine with God’s light in the world (Matthew 5:16). This can thus make others curious, inspiring them to ask you more about your faith.
In short, as Christians, there are so many ways for us to be co-laborers of God’s harvest work. Let us be humble towards others – yet still never shy away from pointing to our Good Shepherd!
3. Become a missionary of God’s plentiful harvest.
For some, you may be feeling God’s strong call for you to become an actual travelling missionary, helping to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Indeed, even today, there are still many cultures, people groups, and tribes that have not yet heard Jesus’ full message of salvation. Missionaries often refer to them as the Unreached.
Doing missionary work is one way to answer God’s desires. You will directly go out to a global harvest of lost people in spiritual need of Jesus.
However, if this is our Father’s will for you, be sure to seek proper training. This is to ensure you are physically, mentally, and spiritually equipped to handle the challenges of missionary life.
Pray to God for guidance and do some research to find the best fit for your missionary journey.
Yes, the harvest is still plentiful today!
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He remains the one and only Good Shepherd, and God still longs for the spiritually lost to be saved amid the plentiful harvest.
Will you do your part to be a co-laborer of God’s work? How can you best commit your life to sharing His love with others?