Posted on: 2015-06-17

O Thou who hast given us so much, mercifully grant us one more thing - a truly grateful heart. - George Herbert

Another fellowship in heaven

As the customary harvest period approaches in most Christian Churches, sharing a reflection on the practice as a spiritual engagement cannot be out of place. Like a few other aspects of Christian expression, harvest celebrations have metamorphosed into a skill-based enterprise. To have a successful harvest these days expert guest-preachers, event managers, comedians, Masters of Ceremonies, corporate fundraisers, internal decorators, motivational speakers and concert singers now play a very important role. The overwhelming aim of securing the services of these experts is to raise as much money as possible for the work of God. Given the importance of funds for spreading the good news the legitimacy of this good intention can hardly be contested. But with the high professional content in harvest celebrations these days however, the methods deployed to achieve the end can often from the point of view of authentic Christianity, become banal, if not exploitative. A correct understanding of the word of God however should demonstrate that the ultimate objective of all church harvest is to raise the spirituality of the faithful so that they can participate in the final heavenly harvest (Matt.22:1-14).

Tampering with the harvest of thanksgiving

In fact the New Testament concept of the harvest from the words of Jesus Christ himself had very little to do with money. When in the gospels Jesus looked at the people who were with him harassed and helpless, he said: "The harvest is abundant but the workers are only few. Ask the master of the harvest to send workers to gather his harvest" Lk. 10:2, Matt 9:37-38). The text shows that the harvest in Jesus' mind was actually the flock that he came to shepherd. Most New Testament references on the harvest likewise address spiritual things. St Paul however emphasized cheerful, abundant giving for building up the Church and helping the needy (2Cor. 8-9). His central reason however was very precise: "...give abundantly. What you give will become, through us, a thanksgiving to God (2Cor 9:12).  But today's harvest, juxtaposed with these, seem to derive from another fellowship indeed. To drive home the message of generous giving in reluctant worshipers, preachers and speakers emphasize rather frightening parts of the Bible to get better results, like the admonitions of Malachi and the parable of the rich fool (Mal. 1:1-14, Lk. 12:13ff). All these function as catalysts to soften the heart of the recalcitrant faithful who does not realize the goodness of the Lord in him or her enough to open up the storehouses.

Harvest of thanks-getting

As additional incentive also many churches today try to lure believers to do harvest with promises of more blessings, a kind of spiritual bribe or barter. Notice the turn-around in harvest notifications and advertisements from "harvest of thanksgiving" to all sorts of "harvests of expectation" depicted in harvest brochures and banners : "Harvest of Divine Promotion", Harvest of Supernatural Elevation", Harvest of Professional Accumulation", "Harvest of Unprecedented Increase", "Harvest of Miraculous Healing", and so on. In other words, the harvest of thanksgiving has now practically become a "harvest of thanks-taking" or "thanks-getting", so to speak, to receive something from God. It demonstrates indeed a diminished sense of appreciation to God when the very occasion meant to thank him for what he has already done is exploited to demand for more. The DNA of many modern believers simply does not seem to agree with the Biblical injunction that " Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving" (Acts 20:35). Most people today simply want more, more and more from God with a diminished sense of gratitude. Does it not show as well in our relationship among ourselves whereby those who are able to, simply seek to grab more and more and yet give less and less? There is some sense in the little tale about two angels at heaven's gate holding two baskets, one full and the other nearly empty. The full basket is tagged "requests:" while the empty one was tagged "thanksgiving". The dearth of genuine thanksgiving today ought to bother true believers for only the genuinely thankful enjoy true peace and contentment.    

Harvest of thanks-grumbling

Yes, yet in a different class are those who care nothing about the admonition of Paul: "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice" (Phil. 4:4). They celebrate what I call the harvest of "thanks-grumbling" and are perennially dissatisfied with their life situation, complaining and grumbling to God: "If only you did that for me I could have done this for you", "If I could have been  like that other person, I could have done that for your Church". They surely do not belong among true believers. I recall a joke which I read about such grumblers, that if they had been invited to the  Last Supper they would have complained about the menu and missed out on the opportunity to be genuinely grateful for having been invited at all. True believers do not, through their demands and requests hijack God's right to pure praise and thanks. They simply trust God enough to believe that he knows what to do for them at each harvest. He requires no dictation or advice to know what the thanks-giver needs. Divine promotion, victory, increase or healing are all well within his powers and he gives them appropriately and freely. St. Paul endorsed this fact: "And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything at all times and may give abundantly for any good work" (2Cor. 9:8). Such are those who believe the words of the psalmist: "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good for his love endures forever (Ps 118:1).