In John’s gospel (4:36) Jesus points out that in so many situations, the person who enjoys the harvest is not the same as the person who sowed the seed. We all benefit a lot from this phenomenon. Some oak plantations in France are cultivated in a 300-year cycle; many generations working successively with the same trees in the belief that their descendants will enjoy the harvest. Most of our industries and apparently the entire banking system are less far-sighted.
Almost every convenience we enjoy today is the fruit of someone’s vision and hard work who never saw the full fruits of their dedication to change. That goes for all the benefits that clean water and wound management have brought. We take most of it for granted and wonder how anyone ever managed without toothbrushes, toilet paper, or marmite. Aid workers in South Sudan and Afghanistan could tell us.
It is not just material goods that we harvest without sowing. We owe our humanitarian thought, such as it is, to brave souls in the past who first forgave enemies, men who first treated women as equals and women who bravely demanded it, families who put their lives on the line to run slave trains to northern cities in the USA. Yes, we enjoy many harvests where we have not sown the seed.
What do we sow in return? Our part of the human race is in a rather unproductive phase; we consume the harvest of the past but plant little for the future. Parenting is a notable exception to this, in which we give thanks for the start our parents gave us in life by sacrificing ourselves in turn for our own children. It can go further; those of us who are no longer enjoying the company of mortgages can start giving gifts forward to other struggling youngsters and to those many in other countries whose labour makes us comfortable whilst leaving them in poverty.
There is potential for every part of our lives to be sowing seed that will improve, or poison, the land in which the great grandchildren we shall never know will gather harvest. Sowing love, kindness, forgiveness, and generosity will ensure a great harvest. This is the true imitation of Christ.