SLEEP IS AN ENEMY OF BREAD
The Parables were “Kingdom Messages,” but they also had moral applications for our livelihood. The enemy sowed weeds among the wheat while “everyone was sleeping” (Matthew 13:25). The five foolish virgins went to sleep unprepared and missed their own wedding (Matthew 25:1-13). The disciples slept during the crucial time when their Lord was betrayed and arrested (Matthew 26:36-46). Twice the guards slept at the secret passage to Sardis when the Persians and later the Syrians surprised the Lydians (W.B. pp. 68-70). History has many Trojan Horses disturbing man’s slumbers and sleep.
Sleepers have lost many harvests and had to be fed by others. During King Solomon’s time, the monarchs and his nobles ran the welfare system. Most of his one thousand wives were the widows and orphans of soldiers that died for the king and his endeavors. He observed that even some friends and his own soldiers took advantage of him. He was too quick to make promises and the lazy friends quicker to trap and hold him accountable. He saw his son follow in his shoes and had this advice. “My son, if you make a promise to your friend, or shake the hand of someone you do not know; you have trapped yourself with your own words that came from your mouth. Go and humble yourself and seek ways to deliver yourself from the claws of your friend. Like a deer, do not slumber or sleep until you are out of reach from the hunter, or like a bird that escaped the bird catcher” (Proverbs 6:1-5).
Solomon had observed that friendship can be abused and warned those that sponged off their friends and called them “sluggards.” He used very strong language to warn the sluggard and his benefactor that such a one-way relationship could not endure. “Learn from the ant, lazy man; observe its ways and do likewise. It has no teacher, guardian or king; yet, on its own, it provides meat in the summer and gathers food during harvest. Lazy man, how long will you sleep before you wake up and realize what you are doing? Just a little sleep, a little slumber and a little fording of the hands for a short rest will let poverty surprise you like a thief and turn you into a beggar” (Proverbs 6:6-11). The principle is that givers go bankrupt and become beggars along with their lazy friends and the poor. It is a fact that continues to plague mankind to this very day. It became worse when the provider of the household, like a father, a husband or the oldest son was taken over by the community, a system or a state (Matthew 24:45-51). Like Solomon, who left nothing for his son to work with, our systems leave nothing but debt to our children.
My father had peculiar habit of disturbing our sleep. He would go somewhere in the morning and return at supper time then sent us back into the field to pick weeds that had sprouted over night. He would do that several times a week before we boys and hired hands would do it before father came home. We could only pull weeds when their roots were small and we kept the weeds out of the grain field. During harvest time, we were not allowed to sleep as long as the weather permitted. We slept when it rained and even in the morning before the sun dried the grain field. The year I went to Canada and worked on a large farm, I could not finish harvesting. The small farmers did but the large ones had to let the snow cover the crop and they could recover some grain in the spring. The extremely cold weather made it possible, but it was not returning as much as a small farmer did who cooperated with the weather.
Fall is golden in Poland and the Ukraine and so are the harvests. Heavy rains do appear suddenly and will lay a grain field flat on the ground. A small farmer still can harvest by hand when the sun dries the field. This year we traveled through Poland and the Check Republic and noticed that some fields were yet to be harvested and that they were late because wet weather had laid many grain fields on the ground and were rotting. The big farm machinery only picked up the standing grain. The big farmer does not have the manpower to do the gleaning. There is an enormous loss of bread in huge farming. It is simply too big to cooperate with the weather. It is the farmer that must fit into nature and not nature into the farmer. Farming is the only industry when the weather dictates when we work and when we sleep.
We visited friends that have dairy farms and the one farmer has a modern system that washes and milks the cow while it feeds. Sixty percent of the cows come by themselves as often as they feel the need to feed. These cows do not go by the clock, but by their stomachs. The farmer has to be an engineer, a mechanic and able to milk by hand or use the electric equipment he uses on the forty percent. One cannot inform the cow to come back later. The farmer has to adjust to the cows and not the cows to the man. These people milk one hundred cows and some one has to keep watch all the time. While I grew up, we never had more than ten milking cows at the time and we only feed and milked them in the morning and at nights. If I did not show up at six o’clock in the morning to feed them, they put on their morning concert under my bedroom window and ended my sleep. We had conditioned each other. Some nights we returned late, these animals let the whole neighborhood know that they were not fed.
I learned from our animals that they obeyed the law of nature more than we do. There is a statement in the Prophet Isaiah, chapter one verse three that should disturb our sleep. “The ox knows his master, the ass knows his owner’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not comprehend.” The principle that applies here concerns all of mankind, believer and unbeliever. We all lack understanding or refuse to understand our obligation to provide and feed each other. The Creator commanded that man takes care of the animals and the land (Genesis 1:26-30). Both, the animals and the land have to be cared for because they guarantee man’s safety and survival. A friend of ours raised eight geese. We went to see her and as soon as we entered her backyard, the geese began to sound the alarm that strangers had entered their territory and she had to go to them put her finger on her lips and hissed quietly and the geese stopped being disturbed. She fed them some grain and my wife could go with our friend and the geese followed the friend, flew and swam for her while my wife took pictures. They understood quickly that we were no danger to their benefactor.
Jesus said similar things about sheep that knew their shepherd that provided them with pasture and water (John 10:1-21). They acquaint themselves with his voice and follow him. Some sheep need persuasion and the shepherd sends his dogs after them and after some nipping the slow ones fall in behind the shepherd. I have been nipped by hunger and so are most people in the world, even in prosperous areas, one person no longer can feed a family of four. It becomes worse when the one that feeds us is taken from us or when we are separated from the source of our daily bread like we were during World War II. We ended up like sheep among wolves and many of us acted like hungry wolves ourselves. We were blessed because we had a father that was very creative and aggressive in finding ways to earn some bread during very difficult times in our lives. He was trained by his father, and my father has influenced me, and we did the same with our children that we and nobody else is responsible for our bread. Even if somebody gives us a job, we are responsible for building up or creating supplements that can carry us when the employers can no longer employ us.
What about Jesus’ statement that we should not worry about food, drink or clothes and that God would provide (Matthew 6:25-34). I ask myself two questions, to whom was Jesus talking and did He tell them just to go to sleep and let God worry about their daily needs? The first answer is that Jesus is addressing his disciples only that will make their living by spreading the message of the Kingdom. The recipients of the message will provide for the messenger’s needs (Matthew 11:5-15). Not every on can just leave his employment and expect to be fed by the world. I am included in Jesus’ speech because I made my living as a preacher, but I also had to supplement my income. I did not belong to those that were well paid. Most of our churches were small. I had only three congregations, approximately twelve years when I was adequately compensated.
The answer to the second question is, just go and watch the birds how they are fed? They are more awake than I am and busier than I ever have been. With regard to the lilies, how do they grow? We have some in our garden and they owe their beauty and existence to my wife. She keeps the bugs and weeds away, fertilizes and waters them. We have been invaded by ivy and it swallows up even trees, if we let it. There is more to a lily. It is symbolic of an active and reliable human life that stands out in a field. To such a life, people will turn for help and reward them for good service and work. A lily is very noticeable and so is an honest and upright laborer or storekeeper or farmer. The lily attracts bees, like bread attracts people. It blooms and it does not sleep. When it sleeps then it is dead and dead food only attracts vultures (Matthew 24:28).