by Tom Wacaster
In 1 Corinthians 3:6 the apostle Paul, by divine inspiration, penned these words: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” The last time I attempted to grow a garden was in the late 80’s. I had never had very good luck with growing potatoes, but thought I would take a shot at it again. I purchased 10 pounds of potatoes, cut out the “eyes” and carefully planted them in my garden. We had a wet spring that year, and it seems like every time I wanted to get into the garden and do some weeding, it was too wet and muddy. For whatever reason, I ended up with a yield of 8 pounds of potatoes for all my labor and toil; two pounds less than the bag of potatoes I originally purchased. It was sort of like some my attempts at fishing where I would buy a license, worms, and minnows. The amount of money I spent for each pound of fish I eventually cooked, far outweighed the amount of money it would take to go to Red Lobster. But that’s a topic for another time.
Jesus would often use a real life situation to teach an important spiritual truth. In the field of agriculture, our Lord spoke of the word of God as a “seed” (Luke 8:11). Carefully planted in the heart of a good and honest soul that seed, like its physical counterpart, will not only produce a harvest, but an abundant harvest, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt. 13:23). Also like its physical counterpart, a seed planted into the soil needs to be nourished and cared for. Part of that care for the newly planted seed is the watering thereof. Consider the following.
First, there is the sheer importance of watering. God, in His marvelous design, arranged the natural order of things so that a seed planted in the ground must receive water in order to sprout and grow. Water activates the chlorophyll molecules in the seed so that photosynthesis can begin. Water also has a neutral pH which balances the soil pH and makes the soil surrounding the seed favorable for seed germination. The water also dissolves the minerals in the soil so that they become available to the seed. Inside the seed is a tiny embryo surrounded by stored food and when the seed is planted, and watered, it begins the growth process. Deprive the seed, and/or the plant of water, and it will die. So it is with God’s spiritual seed, the Word of God (Luke 8:11). The soil may determine the amount of care required to bring the seed to full fruition, but without water, there simply can be no growth.
Second, there are the specifics of watering. If a freshly planted seed is placed in the ground, too much water will do more harm than good. Care must also be given with regard to how the water is to be applied. If water is applied in an overly forceful way you can actually wash the soil away that surrounds the seed and hasten its death. Care must also be given as to how we water the spiritual seed freshly planted in the heart of a good and honest soul. Too much spiritual “water” could drown the soul. It takes a lot of time, patience, and compassion to properly water the newly planted seed. A good example is another essential to nurturing the seed. A good example must be provided by the teacher, as well as those who claim any association to the message of that teacher. If brother Jones takes the time to teach some lost soul, it is imperative that he set a proper example. Teaching coupled with action is the golden key that unlocks the vault of influence. But it is also important that each member in the local congregation live a life that is exemplary to the message and hope to which they have been called. Hypocrites in a congregation most certainly render a negative influence upon those contemplating attendance or obedience. Yes, a good example is important. Then there is the need for additional teaching and instruction once the seed has been planted. Paul introduced the Corinthians to the Gospel; Apollos did the follow up work. Seldom does a soul obey the Gospel after just one lesson (though there are exceptions). Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years of encouragement and instruction. As long as a man is willing to learn, let us provide him with the “sincere milk of the word,” and pray for his obedience.
Third, let us realize that ‘planters’ and ‘waterers’ share in responsibility. The planting is of no greater or lesser importance than the watering. It takes both. The ‘planter’ may include those who visit and set up studies, conduct cottage classes, teach and preach the word publicly and/or privately. The ‘waterer’ may follow up with encouragement, a visit or call on the phone, or a prayer in behalf of those who have heard yet not obeyed. The ‘planters’ do their job well, and the ‘waterers’ contribute to the completion of the work, and both share in the reward. Let us not forget, “for as his share is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarrieth by the baggage: they shall share alike” (1 Sam. 30:24).
Fourth, it is important that both the ‘planter’ and the ‘waterer’ be versed in the scripture. A successful gardener must have a knowledge of gardening. On occasions I have actually pulled out precious flower plants because I thought they were weeds. Someone might accidentally poison a plant if he is ignorant of what chemicals are good and/or bad for the care of his garden. And so it is with planting and watering. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commanded us, “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What constitutes a “shining light”? Is my example beneficial or detrimental to the well being of those who are watching me? Am I using scripture properly in the exhortation and encouragement that I lend to others? How can you be certain if you do not know God’s word?
Finally, we will all share the bounty with others. My first local work was in a farming community in south central Oklahoma. Summer’s harvest, though planted by others, was shared with the many. It was not uncommon for the famers and avid gardeners to produce an abundant crop. They would take what they needed, and then bring the excess bounty to the congregation for all to share. There would be so many potatoes, tomatoes, and onions that we simply could not eat it all. Waste is wrong and one’s bounty was passed along to others. So it is with God’s bountiful harvest. It is to be shared with others. The Gospel is for all. The Great Commission is not the Great Permission. Those who refuse to share what they enjoy with others are guilty of selfishness. Like the lepers who discovered the goods in the abandoned camp of the Syrians: “Then they said one to another, We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, punishment will overtake us; now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (2 Kings 7:9). Brother, do not horde your blessings. Give to others that they too might live.
As we labor together may we recognize the fact that, although some are “planters,” and others are “waterers,” our goal is the salvation of the souls of men to the glory of God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son.