The Farmer Principle

   Written by on January 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm

It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops (2 Timothy 2:6, ESV).

logo-macdonald-jamesIn his second letter to Timothy, Paul used a string of work analogies to show what it’s like to follow Christ Jesus. He spoke of Christ-followers as teachers (2:2), soldiers (2:3), athletes (2:5), and farmers (2:6). Most of us can relate to at least one job on that list.

Any farmers reading today? Many of us are far-removed from the farming experience. That farm-to-table distance is more like a gulf. But when the New Testament was written, everybody got this concept right away. So let’s imagine that we’re farmers so we can grasp Paul’s point. It’s simple and profound. Let’s call it the farmer principle. To summarize Paul’s words, “Feed yourself first!”

Farmers know that. Imagine that you have a farm with 100 acres of corn. You till it, plant it, and watch it grow. It’s a year for a good yield, so you get 150 bushels per acre. Let’s do a little math. With 100 acres, at 150 bushels per acre, you yield 15,000 bushels. What a great harvest!

Next step? Do you take all 15,000 bushels of corn to market and sell it all so that next summer you can buy more land and yield an even bigger crop?

That would be a very bad, foolish, short-sighted plan. The farmer needs to feed his livestock, and he needs money to buy groceries for his family. It’s going to be a long winter. You can’t take everything you earn and turn it into output. The farmer that labors must be the first to partake of the fruits.

In other words, feed yourself first.

This holds true spiritually. You have to feed yourself first before you can feed someone else. Pastors can’t preach sermons that they’re not working on personally. Their sermon preparation can’t be the only time they’re in the Bible all week. They need to keep their hearts fed and tender. They can’t feed everybody else without first feeding themselves. It’s the nourishing of God’s Word in their own souls that gives them the strength to persevere.

Let’s make this more personal. What was your spiritual diet this past week? What have you gleaned from God’s Word in the last thirty days? This is the condition of your soul. You can be out telling the world about Jesus but starving your own soul.

It’s not enough to just show up at church on Sunday and let your pastor feed you. The time you spend together in God’s Word at church is a sample to whet your appetite so that you will crave and feast on more spiritual food all week. Some Christians get so fired up about Jesus at church, and then they lose that high by their Monday lunch break. Have you had enough cycles of that? Your soul needs regular feeding, not a once-a-week sampler platter.

Farmers get this, and Paul wanted Timothy (and us!) to get this also. Feed yourself first, or face the fallout—an empty soul. Feed yourself first! And then you can feed others too.

Reprinted with permission from Our Journey, copyright 2016 by James MacDonald. All rights reserved. Further distribution is prohibited without written permission from Walk in the Word. 

About James McDonald

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, and both are from Ontario, Canada. He is the father of three grown children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and grandfather to five amazing grandsons. James has committed his life and ministry to the unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word. In 1988, along with a small group of ministry partners, James and Kathy planted Harvest Bible Chapel ( which now has 13,000 people meeting at seven locations across Chicagoland each weekend. Walk in the Word, a Bible-teaching television and radio broadcast ministry (, was established in 1997. The radio program reaches more than three million people daily, and the television audience extends around the world. In 2002, through James’s leadership and by God’s grace, the church-planting ministry Harvest Bible Fellowship ( was founded and has established more than 100 churches across North America and around the world. James’ vision is for God to use Harvest Bible Fellowship to plant 1,000 churches by 2020. James’ extensive ministry also includes a training center for pastors, a year-round camp, a center for biblical counseling, a disaster-recovery organization, and a Christian school—all used to reach more people with the life-changing message of the Gospel. James is the author of several books including Vertical Church, Authentic, Lord Change My Attitude, When Life is Hard, Always True, and most recently, Come Home.


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