May 3rd, 2021 – Late Monday Evening
“The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” ~2 Timothy 2:6
The placement of this verse may seem a bit strange at first, but remember that it comes in the midst of some practical instruction for and description of the calling to which Timothy had been called. For a brief review, Timothy has been instructed in this chapter to: 1. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2. Disciple other men who would be able to disciple others. 3. Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4. Stay focused on Christ and the priorities that He had for him. 5. Compete/run according to his Father’s rules. Since the next verse (verse 7) seems to be a bit of an end-cap for these instructions, it seems safe to assume that this verse (verse 6) is to be included in the parcel.
So what does it mean? First, the physical illustration seems plain; a farmer or vine-dresser who labors tirelessly away at his work ought to be the first one to have a share in his labor. We wouldn’t expect a hard-working farmer to labor for months on end only to see his crop consumed by or profited off of by someone else under normal conditions. This first part is easy to understand. Second, however, is the spiritual understanding or application of what Paul is saying; there are differing ideas from different scholars as to what is being insinuated. The next paragraph outlines a few potential meanings, either from others’ or from my own thoughts.
Perhaps the most obvious interpretation would be in line with the teaching that “the laborer is worthy of his wages”; those teaching elders, apostles, evangelists, etc. who serve faithfully ought to receive a stipend or even their physical livelihood from the fruit of their labors (i.e. from those they are ministering to). Another possible application would be based on the distinct use of the word “hard-working” (as opposed to lazy); only those who are hard-working receive the reward. Still another possibility is the reality that the Lord is the one who deserves the first-fruits; He is the Vine-Dresser and He receives the glory from His labor (of which we who are in Christ are a part).
This is a bit of a situation, isn’t it? Here’s a take on it from me: What if all three (and even more) interpretations are all true at the same time? Beginning with the last one first, the Father is the Vine-Dresser, Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches (John 15); as the Vine-Dresser, the Father is automatically entitled to the whole harvest, but the significance of the first-fruits or the first share is not lost. In line with the character and nature of the hard-working Creator God, those who work hard at their labor receive the first, most significant, share of the fruit. Finally, Timothy (like other Church leaders), was to accept the first share of the “crops” as was fitting for one who faithfully and diligently labored in his assigned service from the Father.
However this verse ends up being interpreted, the question we ought to ask ourselves in light of it is not “where’s my reward?”, but “Am I a hard-working, faithful reflection of my Father, the Vine-Dresser?” What sort of labor do we produce? Is it worthy of the King of Kings? Am I enjoying the benefits (spiritual and perhaps physical – not the other way around) of walking in step with His Spirit in the good works which He has prepared beforehand for me to do?
“The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.”