Posted: 4/22/17 at 9:15am. Column by Ed Jordan.
Look at your tomato! How many days did it take for a ripe tomato to arrive on your plate? How about a red delicious apple? How many days, or years, went into the process to make it possible for you to have and eat a ripe, crispy apple?
A typical variety of tomato takes around 75 days to ripen and be ready to eat. Red Delicious apples take around 180-210 days from blossom to becoming ripe. Add to that the six to ten years it takes for the tree to mature enough to become a regular apple producer.
Oh, and one more thing: Those apple trees only produce a good harvest every other year. So someone has to plant enough trees on two different years so that there will be apples available every year.
If you happen to regularly garden or grow fruit, these factors come as no surprise. But when we are far removed from the farm-to-plate process, we subconsciously see our food as originating in the grocery store. The end result is that whatever is readily available, yet we have no stake in producing, we tend to devalue.
We don’t intend to do that, and we understand that food isn’t born in the grocery store, of course. Nevertheless, we often disregard the actual time-consuming and labor-intensive process it took to fill the produce shelf with the variety and quality to which we have become accustomed.
Our family moved to Hungary right after the Iron Curtain fell. We remember the absence of fresh vegetables in the winter months of those first few years. In late winter you could not find anything green in the grocery stores, except overripe meat. You could get a few potatoes, carrots, and turnips, which by late December were limited to what shriveled veggies remained in root cellars. This was what life in a former communist country was like, since they had been isolated from outside supply sources.
I remember a couple of winter meals at a nice restaurant where we might find one sprig of parsley on the plate. Before living in a former communist country, I never ate the parsley on a dinner plate. I thought it was only for decoration. But after months of not eating anything green, your body would crave something fresh. The surprise of a sprig of parsley on your plate, led you to eat and savor every bit of that parsley sprig. It was like eating something from heaven.
You see, we don’t value things if we don’t realize how rare they are, or no longer have them. Things which are readily available with no sacrifice on our part, are devalued, and sometimes assumed to be things to which we are entitled, because we have always had them without any contribution on our part. It is an interesting phenomenon. The more removed we are from involvement in the production side of life, the less we value the product produced.
We don’t understand what it took for our parents to raise us, until we have to raise our own kids. Do we value our husband or wife, or just assume they will always be around? Often we don’t value God, until one day we face circumstances that cannot be dealt with by anyone other than God.
Here’s a new thing in our culture: Many people don’t value the church, and assume that all the benefits provided by the church will just show up on their plate. Do we value Jesus and what He provides for us? Do we value the church and the spiritual nurture and strength that it can give to those who need it? In John 12:26 (ESV) Jesus taught: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
Are we among those who give of ourselves and work sacrificially to provide needed ministries? Or are we like those who want the church to always be there for us, but we don’t want to commit ourselves to making it possible? I know it’s a harsh question, but here goes: Do you just want spiritual food to arrive on your plate whenever you are hungry, but have no desire to do the work in God’s garden?
For the church to be prepared to nourish the spiritual hunger of our communities, all believers must serve God through giving our time, talents and resources. We have to serve and contribute to the process of producing fruit in God’s garden, because the fruit won’t be there if we don’t. Look at your tomato.