Fellow Workers

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

1 Corinthians 3:5-9


Last year, my wife and I purchased our first house. When the next spring rolled around, we went into full landscaping mode – watching This Old House, reading magazines and making frequent trips to Lowes. All of athe sudden, flowers and shrubs were really cool – something my mom has been telling me for years. We made plans, bought plants and started working.

As summer progressed, we were dismayed. The azaleas, hosta and boxwood in the front weren’t dead, but they didn’t look great, either. We planted, we watered…but nothing grew. The soil, though rich and dark in the backyard, was nothing but red clay in the front.

As a firstborn, type-A “doer”, I very badly want “he who plants and he who waters” to be the one who is responsible for making it grow. The overwhelming feeling throughout our first year as homeowners and novice gardeners is that it is not us that makes our plants grow – try as we might. The water and labor are nothing without the right soil. The soil means nothing without the sun. The sun doesn’t shine without nuclear fusion. None of this happens without the will of the Maker.

The job of the gardener is a penultimate gift of grace. To be given the responsibility to tend to the earth is just a small glimpse of the final joy we will have in the new earth.

We are in good soil here at Uptown Church. It is not perfect soil and the growth that happens in it is not pain-free. But the soil is rich and warm and deep. The church waters us well by filling us constantly with Bible teaching and rich theology.

But the Lord makes it grow. It is not our pastor, nor our elders, nor the parents or teachers or children that are responsible for the seasonal budding and the seeds that are spread. The Lord makes it grow. May God humble us daily lest we forget.

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

– Sam Gamgee on why we do art (sort of)