Last Sunday night at church, a couple of senior farmer friends were sitting on the pews near me and I asked them to tell me why they farm. Almost simultaneously both of them said with a smile, "It's sure not because you hope to make a lot of money!" My brother in law says, "You don't make any money at it, but it's worth it just to be in the business." I asked the two fellows to be thinking about the question and give me their answer after the service because I planned to write this month's devotional on this topic for my brother Glenn.
When church was over I followed them outside after picking on the preacher some, and reminded them of the question. Don said, "I do it because I enjoy it." Doug said pretty much the same thing. Then he went on to tell how he had been riding his four wheeler across the field that afternoon to check on some cows and he just pulled over and stopped and looked over the fields under the setting sun and sat there and enjoyed the beauty for a while. As he started for his car, he turned around and came back to me. This time he was animated and profound: "It's love of the land. I love the land. When I started farming my daddy who was a much better farmer than I will ever be, told me, 'It's not your land. It is God's land. You have a stewardship of the land and you are answerable to God for what you do with it. A good farmer has a responsibility to leave the land better than he found it. If he doesn't do that, he isn't much of a farmer.' And my daddy went on to say, 'You have inherited my name. (Doug is John D. Day, Jr.) It is also your responsibility to leave my name as good or better than when you received it.' "
You just never know what you are going to learn at church. And it is not just the preachers and the Sunday School teachers that you learn from.
Why do you farm? Why do you do what you do? "Why?" is an important question. We don't understand all the whys in life and we do not need to at this point. We do believe that God knows all the whys, and if we need to know " He will help us understand it better by and by" at the appropriate time. But there are some whys we can know and need to know, especially when it relates to our motivation or reason for doing what we do. Often we have many reasons for doing what we do, but usually there is one reason that surpasses all the others.
I work as a substance abuse counselor in a residential treatment program for men. Most of the time when I meet a new client, I ask him, "Why are you here?" Many of the answers I get are predictable: "I want to get off drugs or alcohol.", "I want to stay out of jail.", "I want to get my life straightened out.", "I want to get my family back.", "I want to stop hurting the people who love me.", "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.", "I don't want to lose my job.", "The doctor said I was going to die if I don't stop drinking now.", "I want to do it for me."
All these reasons are valid and good if they are true and not just lip service, if they represent a sincere desire and willingness to change. For some people the honest answer to this question would be more like, "I don't want to be here and I'm not ready to change." Until these people become willing and motivated to live a different life it is very difficult to help them. I have learned that I can only help people do what they want to do. I cannot make them do anything they are not willing to do. I have not had many men say, "I am here because I want and need God's help to live a sober and righteous life that pleases Him and blesses others. That is what will make me happy."
Most Sundays I preach to a small congregation and I want them to think about, "Why are we here?", "Why do we follow Jesus?" I am reminded of how I would have answered that question at different times in my life:
"I don't want to go to hell. I want to go to heaven." That was where I started. I knew I was a sinner. I knew God, heaven and hell were real. I was afraid of going to hell. I wanted to go to heaven. Jesus is the only way. That was a valid answer then and still is.
"I want to have a good life and the only way to have a good life is to follow Jesus by faith." My way doesn't work. His way does. He guides me, provides for me and protects me.
"I have done bad things and I have been a sinful person. I live with guilt and shame. I want forgiveness. I want my sin washed away. I want to be pure, holy, clean, good and righteous."
"I want to be a better man." I want to be pleasing to God and helpful to others. I want my life to mean something and to be useful to Him.
"I love God because He loves me."
Love is the greatest motive of all. God is love and He wants me to love Him with all my heart and love my neighbor as myself. To love Him is to give yourself totally to him. He gave himself totally to us when he sent Jesus to die on the cross. He offers to give himself totally to us every moment of every day. He knocks at the door of our heart and wants to come in and fill us with Himself, but He doesn't force the door open! He invites us to receive Him. It is just the right thing to do. It's the only right thing to do. And when we do, it is pure joy. When we love Him and allow Him to love us, God enjoys it and so do we. The happiest people in the world are the people who find their joy in Him.
So why do you farm? Why do you teach, or drive a school bus, or run a business, or patrol the highways, or provide healthcare or show up at work every day? Why do you cook, clean house, mow the yard or take care of the children or the elderly? Why do you do whatever you do?
"I want to make a living for my family and myself."
"It is a good, honest, honorable work and I enjoy it."
"It makes life better for others. It helps people."
"It is a spiritual stewardship and a responsibility."
"It gives me an opportunity to demonstrate faith, hope, love and integrity in my profession or business, to demonstrate the reality of following Jesus to the people I encounter every day."
"This is what God has provided and directed for me to do. This is the door He has opened. This is where He has put me to serve."
"I do it because I love Him and this is for His glory and praise. And I really enjoy that!"
The Bible tells us: "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Colossians 3:17 NASB