Be not afraid, Joel entreats us, be glad and rejoice, Surely the LORD has done great things. Writing from a parched land where a dry summer gives way to the rains of autumn he invites us to trust in the rhythm of the seasons that provides water at the appropriate time to swell the fruits and restore the greens of the landscape. The people to whom he wrote had every reason to be afraid, having just come through the devastation of their land by locusts. Joel goes on to provide words of comfort to the wild animals whose food chain has been disrupted. God will provide for their needs and the needs of his people.
Godís provision for us is indeed great. At harvest time we are reminded of all the good things that we have to eat or to wear. The fuel we put in our cars is another example of the harvest of resources laid down in the earth over thousands of years. We watch television, go to the cinema and listen to music, all of which represent a harvest of the creative abilities God plants in man. But it seems the more we see, the more we want. Paul points out that we come into the world with nothing, and leave with nothing. If we have sufficient food and clothing then we should be content with that. These days, however, the list of Ďessentialsí is far greater. How could we survive without television, or an electric kettle, or that new car? The line between needs and wants has become hazy and confusing.
Looking back thousands of years the act of harvesting was a great community event with people working together to gather and store the food and materials that would sustain that community through the leaner times. Nowadays the nearest to sharing in the harvest process most of us achieve is to pay for the goods and services that others have produced and offer. We need to question whether these goods and services are offered for the greater good of the community, or solely for the pursuit of profit. It is easy to see what Paul meant in his letter to Timothy when he said that the love of money is the root of all evil. An economy driven by the necessity to make as much money as possible to please shareholders and maximize profits will inevitably mean that people become valued by society in terms of their spending power, rather than for the special talents and personalities with which God created them to serve in his Kingdom. People whose spending power has been reduced because their roles have been taken over by machines to maximize profits, their talents and service to society rejected in favour of material wealth soon find that their sense of belonging to the world is undermined, leaving them feeling like Joelís Israelites reeling from the effects of the plague of Locusts. As part of society, in fact more than that, as the hands and feet of Jesus working for God, we need to help them to see their true value, created in the image of God, an integral part of His kingdom on earth.
So as we take time to give thanks for the great gifts we have received we remember that this provision is for all mankind, regardless of their ability to pay, and we are called to be stewards and not merchants of that creation, sharing and caring for all in society, not selling all to the highest bidder at the expense of the powerless. Jesus bids us not to be anxious about how we will be fed or clothed, if we seek first the kingdom of God then all we need will be provided for. As we celebrate the harvest of Godís provision for us we should be encouraged to work towards the harvest of souls for his kingdom, so that through an awakening of faith all may have their anxiety relieved and feel their sense of worth to our loving Father, our Lord, our God.