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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, January 25, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 4:27–42

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” (NRSV)

We’re all comfortable with the idea of quid pro quo. Maybe certain specific instances of quid pro quo can be debated, but the general idea of quid pro quo, of giving something to get something? Yeah, we’ve all kind of got that down.

In the middle of this story about the Samaritan woman and living water there’s this little break where the disciples come and try to get Jesus to eat. (“Come on, Rabbi, a little nosh. It wouldn’t hurt you to eat.”) And Jesus goes off into a little digression about the nature of sustenance and labor, ending with a kind of anti-quid pro quo:

“I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor.”

Yeah, guys, you see, other people have been working, so now it’s time for you to go out and reap the benefits of their work. What did you do? Nothing. What are you going to get? Everything. What did they do? Everything. What do they get? They get to watch you do the reaping.

It sounds like those who did the sowing and the tending and watering and all that kind of get the short end of the deal. But when you look at it, the two groups need each other. The reapers have nothing to do without the sowers, and without the reapers, no one eats. The two are interdependent. Jesus makes a masterful statement about how we all owe our livelihoods to the work of others, and without them we have nothing. It’s how a society works.

I think it’s always good for us to remember this when we start to think of ourselves as completely self-reliant, when we start to think that what we get is solely the result of our own work. Maybe if you’re a hermit, it is. But if you live among people, you have benefited from the work of others. You are getting something for which you did not labor. It’s incumbent on you to return that benefit to others, so that we all sustain each other.

Lord, remind us that we are continually borne up by others, that we continually receive benefits that others worked for. Help us to remember to return those benefits to others, to bear them up in turn. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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