Parable of the Dairy Farm

Written by Pastor David Niemela

It is sad to see the declining influence of the dairy farm upon American lives. I have a few of these memories myself through visits, but memories shared with me by those who actually grew up on the dairy farm are countless. In my childhood, the dairy seemed to get in the way. One friend couldn’t be in as many sports as me because of the cows, and extended stays at my cousin’s ensured I would be helping with chores. Why did they have to work? Simply put, the family needed them. Fortunately now, I see the benefits for those growing up on the dairy farm, and I have heard from many of you (and countless others) the appreciation for this upbringing (and I will not discount raising beef cattle, crop farming, or other hard- working upbringings). Parents didn’t just raise quality milk on the farm, but, along with that, kids with high-quality skills and character. It was either instill a work ethic in the children, or have no food on the table. The economy demanded it: work or suffer (or die). Since I do not have the research to back this up, and it may be oversimplified, too, I will leave you to be the judge on the following statement: the decline of the dairy farm in America is in some way connected to a decline of work ethic in America. 

Concerning your work in the congregation, you won’t necessarily die if you don’t have a work ethic in ministry. The need for congregational work is not obvious, because your family’s next bite of food does not depend on it. Since neither our stomachs nor bank balances drive us forward to do ministry work, we must be intentional. Do not be “lagging behind in diligence,” but rather “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11). Paul did not treat ministry like a jog in the park or boxing the air, but was like a disciplined athlete in reaching others (1 Corinthians 9, especially vv. 24-27). What is congregational work, and are you qualified? Congregational work is working together to spread the Kingdom of God on earth. It can’t be done alone, since the Bible constantly calls us to minister to “one another” and more specifically says “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, ESV). It is having the Word of God in your home. It is gathering around the Word of God to study and hear it with fellow believers. Here the Spirit presses us forward to sharpen our focus in how to minister to our family, church family, and community. It can’t be a lax approach. The farmer adapts his methods with experience; together, we must adapt with God’s Word applied to experience. 

Are you qualified? To answer this, I ask, do you trust in yourself or in God? In other words, do you trust in the salvation of Jesus Christ? If yes, you have God’s Spirit and are qualified (1 Corinthians 12:1-11). While your stomach won’t drive you forward, God’s Spirit will, even as He is now, and won’t let you settle down as the world is dying. 

To be more specific, the world (specifically unbelievers) is dead to God. This is not because of God, but because of people’s sin. Like the false teachers Paul described, “whose god is their appetite,” (Philippians 3:19) they are driven forward by their senses to fulfill both needs and pleasures. “Love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10) also characterizes this idolatry. These are slaves to sin (Romans 6:16), which we all were at one time (see 6:17). That slavery might be veiled in false holiness of hard work, but it is really to serve the god of their stomachs and/or bank balances (among other idols). 

Some even fail to justify their false holiness in work, and would rather simply not work. Some are surprised at this attitude. As I look at this, appalling as it may be to me at first glance, it makes sense in light of the Scriptures. Most are on the broad road to destruction, as Matthew 7:13-14 makes clear. So, it makes sense things like the work ethic, and therefore the economy, fall apart. So, is it a surprise the next generation, in general, lacks work ethic when the days of prosperity made raising a bank balance easier than raising hard-working kids? The gods of the stomach and money won the day again. 

These gods did not win eternity, though. Christ’s cross and resurrection put Satan to shame (Colossians 2:15), along with his work of distraction through false gods. While the United States slips, remain confident in God’s Spirit and Word. He called the Christians “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Salt is used for preservation and/or taste. If society is to be preserved, or at least made agreeable to taste, it will take a work of God. God worked by resurrecting you and me to life in Christ, and sprinkling us Christians throughout society. 

I don’t want to see our nation fall in my lifetime, but whatever does happen, our confidence is in God, and His sure Kingdom. The parable of the dairy farm reminds us that work ethic counts, especially in the congregation. Stomachs or money won’t motivate congregational work, but the decline of America should get us seriously thinking about it. The true motivation will be from God’s Spirit, the Spirit Who revealed to us Christ’s salvation from this dying world. “The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations will perish from his land” (Psalm 10:16, HCSB). It’s a guaranteed cause worth working for.