So neither he who plants, nor he who waters, is anything, but only God who gives the growth. -1 Corinthians 3:7
Notice the emphasis at the end: the goal is growth, and growth only comes from God.
Funny that, because we’re pretty good at focusing on the planting and watering. Who are the really good planters, and who are the really good waterers (if you ask me, I could plant just as well as they did). The writer of course is acutely aware of this human tendency for recognition and praise. We are so easily distracted by the desire for greatness!
The goal is growth. The goal is thus God.
Yes of course we all love growth. Seeing someone go from a pace of infancy in any part of their life, to maturity and strength is just so inspiring. But heck, we make a pretty good dish out of knowing who did what and how much credit they deserve for doing that. And oh (mind you) how we expect the same praise for our planting and spraying. And we often fail to remember that we can’t even make a single leaf grow.
God’s focus is not on who waters and plants, but that it grows.
It shouldn’t be surprising, but it is. A bit of a disappointing surprise. Maybe because some of us spend a lot of time planting and watering in genuine service to God, only to feel cheated and less valued when we fail to get the recognition we deserve. Give honour where honour is due and all that.
But this is probably one of the great learnings to glean from this passage. That we shouldn’t be concerned about our efforts in the pursuit of His Kingdom half as much as we should be on He who makes things grow. Like it’s saying our efforts are in vain if God’s not in it.
I have to be fuelled by the right stuff.
If God is focused on growth, so must I be, irrespective of the part I play in the growing of another. I cannot constantly wait for, hope for, and be fuelled by the praise and recognition of people for my contribution.
Planted some hope in someone’s life today? Great, move on. Watered some dreams today? Fantastic, don’t make a big deal out of it. I have to change my spiritual posture as if I was a farmer: head down, and keep ploughing the land God has given me.
“…neither he who plants, nor he who waters, is anything..”
The fuel of any effective Christian service is this: my gratitude for the gift of salvation which removed from me eternal separation from God. I am nothing, He is something! From this place I offer my life back to God in service.
It’s in this place of humble devotion that I find the strength to lay down my desperate, secret need for the good opinions of others. It’s God’s approval rating I should really long for anyway.
And I seek the grower, while planting and watering in the lives of others. I seek the grower, for the abundant growth in my own life. And while others may crown me with praise and honour, in my heart I continually throw those crowns back at Him.
Because – in heavenly irony – in Christ, He has made this nothing, something.