Harvest, Wealth and Generosity

Joel 2.21-27 / 1 Timothy 6.6-10 / Matthew 6.25-33


Harvest is an important time of year, even though many of us don’t have much to do with farming these days and live mostly unaware of its rhythms and seasons.

Harvest is important because it encourages us to be thankful for the basic necessities of life: our food and drink.

It reminds us that we depend on the seasons and the weather, on soil and small insects, all designed to work in balance by our Creator God.

It reminds us that we depend on the hard work of farmers, packers, transporters and shop workers to receive the food we pick up so casually in the supermarket.

It encourages us to stop for a moment to remember and give thanks for both God’s provision and the networks of people who make it possible for us to have what we need, both of which we can easily forget as we dash into the shop on the way home.

It’s also a time of joy as we see once again how provides for not only us but all creatures and plants on the earth, and how we’re cared for and loved.


But today’s readings also take us beyond this to think about our relationship with wealth and possessions.

Both our second reading from 1 Timothy and the gospel reading tell us to be content with the basics of food and clothing.

So, we might ask, does this mean that we can’t enjoy the good things in life?

Must we feel bad if we have comfort, money and nice things?

Is God a killjoy?

Well, no, not really.

The trouble here is that both readings are presented to us without their contexts.

The way passages are set for reading in church does this sometimes and it can cause some problems.


The verse before our reading from 1 Timothy criticises people who have followed false teachings and think that religion is ‘a means of gain’.

They are people who are focused on gaining ever more wealth and possessions, and think of religion as a means of doing this.

I guess the closest we have to this in modern terms are those TV evangelists who promise that if only you send them some money and do what they say God will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams.

We, though, are to be people who hold wealth and possessions lightly.

Our focus is to be on God, not on anxiously striving to make ourselves ever richer.

We are to free ourselves from the relentless desire to have ever more, to be rid of the love of money that is described as ‘a root of all kinds of evil’, and instead to direct our love towards God.

For although money and possessions are not wrong in themselves, they come with the danger that we might become too caught up in them.

We might not remember that they are gifts from God and instead think that we have a right to everything we want.

We might lose our sense of gratitude and joy.

And in our desire to hold on tight to wealth we might forget to focus on what really matters: loving God and our neighbours with generosity and openness.


In a similar way Jesus’s words in the Gospel about God giving us what we need come just after he’s pointed out that we can’t serve both God and wealth.

Here he’s contrasting being possessed by God with being possessed by our possessions.

If we focus on what we have and want and think we should get, then our lives will be ordered to reflect those priorities.

We risk spending all our energies on aiming for a better car, a better house, designer clothes, the latest gadgets – because we think these are the most important things in life.

If we focus on always having more and better we may forget about our responsibility to care for the earth, to feed and clothe those in need, to ensure justice for the powerless, to protect the weak and vulnerable.

We might become blind to the effects of greed on the environment in terms of pollution and waste.

We might close our eyes to the people who live in poverty and work in harsh conditions to provide us with what we want.

And we may find ourselves consumed by worry about whether we have enough or if it might suddenly be taken away from us through some unseen disaster.


But, if we can reorder our priorities and focus on God, then wealth and possessions fall into their proper place.

They become good gifts from God that we can be thankful for and enjoy without desperately holding on to them.

And they became opportunities for us to use what we have to do good, knowing that as God gives to us he calls us to give to those around us.

For there are many people in need, many people in this country who must rely on food banks and charity to feed and clothe their families.

There are people in other countries, also, for whom war, disease and poverty mean a bad harvest and starvation.

If our focus is on God and his kingdom then our desire will be to follow his example of generosity, to share wealth rather than clinging on to it, to spread God’s goodness wherever and whenever we can.

In short, to strive first for God’s kingdom.

And if we trust in God rather than in wealth then we can relax, knowing that the God who cares for the smallest birds and flowers will understand our needs and care for us even more.

So yes, we can have good things, but Harvest reminds us to give thanks to the source of all good things, to remember our God and to be generous as he is generous.

Then we can be glad and rejoice, knowing that we have a loving and generous God, and we are his people.




Article written for October parish magazine


I write this on a very warm day. It’s warm enough to be summer really but despite that it still feels like autumn. Berries are ripening, apple trees are loaded down with fruit, leaves are turning gold and yellow, and the house martins that nest above my bedroom window have left for Africa. It’s lovely to live in a place where we can see the seasons change and notice the rhythms of the natural world.

One important part of the natural world’s rhythm at this time of year is of course gathering in the harvest. Living in this part of the world and driving around the countryside seeing the fields with machines going up and down, spraying, fertilising, ploughing, sowing and harvesting, really shows how much work goes in to producing our food. And farmers have had a difficult time of it this year, with the hot summer and lack of rain. Animals have had to be fed on food meant for the winter and there’s been extra work involved in keeping crops watered and healthy.

Yet, despite all the difficulties that our British climate can throw at us, we can and do have a harvest we can rely on, year after year. We can still be sure that our shops will be full of food even with difficult weather conditions, and we know that when we turn a tap there’ll be water for us to drink. Not everyone around the world can say the same – there are many countries where a poor harvest means starvation and where the nearest water is miles away.

This means that it’s important for us to be thankful for what we have. It’s an amazing privilege really to be able to go to a supermarket and choose from shelves piled high with food. It’s easy to forget all the work that goes in to growing, packaging and transporting our food to us. We can all take it for granted that we can choose to eat food from many different parts of the world. But we live in a world where we depend on other people for the things we eat and drink, and it’s good to remember and celebrate them.

It’s also good to remember and celebrate the God who makes all of this possible. The world was created good and fruitful, full of things for us to eat, enjoy and discover. And it’s still a place full of beauty and abundance. Each season of the year plays its role in giving us good things. The winter, although it seems a dead time, is a chance for the earth to rest and prepare for the spring, which gives us joy and hope with new life springing up everywhere. The summer brings longer, lazier days with insects, animals and flowers all around us. Then the autumn gives us fruits, vegetables, wheat and many other good things to eat.

There are good gifts for all – if we remember to share and be generous towards people who have less than us. These are not only in faraway countries but also here in our country, where many people depend on food banks to feed themselves and their families. God is generous to us and the Bible tells us that we’re meant to care for the earth and share his generosity with others.

So, as we give thanks for the harvest perhaps there are also ways in which we might be able to share our good gifts with someone else who has less than us?

And may God bless us all with gladness and generosity.