An Unashamed Workman

The Harvest Is Plentiful
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

This is a familiar verse and is often used in the context of evangelism, and it is good to be reminded of this verse, but sometimes it is also good to approach it from a different angle. We are commanded here by the Lord Jesus to ask Him to send out workers in His harvest field, but what is a worker? If we know what a worker is, then we know what we ask for, right? And since the workers are few, and Jesus wants more of them, it is good to know what a worker is, so that we can become one ourselves.

The Greek word for ‘worker’ is ‘ergatēs’ and occurs 15 times in 14 verses (Matthew 9:37-38; 10:10; 20:1-2; 20:8; Luke 10:2; 10:7; Acts 19:25; 2 Corinthians 11:13; Philippians 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:18; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 5:4). I want to pick out the verse from 2 Timothy 2:15 and dwell on this.

Approved and Not Ashamed
Be diligent [hard-working, eager, constant] to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)

We should strive to approve ourselves to God and do not be ashamed. If we look at the concepts of approved and ashamed in the Scriptures, then two verses stand out: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12), and “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16). It seems that presenting ourselves approved and not being ashamed are linked to each other through suffering. We don’t glorify God for suffering, but we do glorify Him in suffering, and we glorify Him for what He will accomplish in us and through us with the suffering. Also, it requires faith (taking God at His Word) and walking securely in it. “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Again, we see this concept of suffering. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said this:

Resist. Be more prayerful every time he is more active. He will soon give it up; if he finds that his attacks drive you to Christ. Often has Satan been nothing but a big black dog to drive Christ’s sheep nearer to the Master.

On top of that we have to accurately handle the Word of truth. That takes diligence and humility, and a zeal (enthusiasm) for God. “Now these {Bereans} were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Eagerness means a readiness of mind and heart. Now, the Greek word for accurately is ‘orthotomeō’ and is a compound of ‘orthos’ (straight), which in Hebrews 12:10-14 is used in reference to discipline, and ‘tomos’ (sharper), which in Hebrews 4:12 is used in reference to the Word of God being a sword.

The Unashamed Workman
If we then read 2 Tim. 2:15 in context of that whole section (which is all about the unashamed workman), we can extract 20 things which defines a workman:

  1. Tell false teachers not to wrangle about words (v.14)
  2. Be diligent to present himself a workman (v.15)
  3. Not be ashamed (v.15)
  4. Accurately handle the Scriptures (v.15)
  5. Avoid worldly and empty chatter (v.16)
  6. To abstain from wickedness (v.19)
  7. Be a vessel of honor (v.21)
  8. Be sanctified (v.21)
  9. Be useful to Jesus (v.21)
  10. Be ready for every good work (v.21)
  11. Flee from youthful lusts (v.22)
  12. Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace (v.22)
  13. Pursue those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (v.22)
  14. Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations (v.23)
  15. Not be quarrelsome (v.24)
  16. Be kind to all (v.24)
  17. Able to teach (v.24)
  18. Patient when wronged (v.24)
  19. Be gentle (v.25)
  20. Be correcting those in opposition (v.25)

What Is a Worker?
It is one who studies and examines the Bible eagerly and in humility, in order to walk in God’s truth and resist the world. It is one who is useful to Jesus for good works, and who is firm in his faith and perseveres under trial and glorifies God through it.

What Does a Worker Do?
First, he prays! To the LORD for more workers (us!): “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Secondly, he goes and harvest for Jesus: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)

Now, let’s get back to our starting verse. We are to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Did you know that the same word for “to send out” (ekballō) is the same word that is used for driving out a demon?! In other words, it takes a lot of power (from God!) to drive us out to work! We need God, so we need prayer!