The trees we have studied bear their fruit year after year, at the same time adding to their strength and the spread of their branches. The grains are very different. They are small, slight plants which must grow together in great numbers to thrive or to be of use. They also are short-lived, growing quickly to their full size, bearing their fruit, and dying; needing to be sown again for another crop. There is a similar difference between the kinds of useful knowledge to which the fruit-trees and the grains correspond. The good works which fruits represent are done from time to time as there is opportunity, the knowledge in regard to them growing stronger and more far-reaching year by year. The grains correspond to no such long-lived and comprehensive knowledge, but to little plans for use which would be trifling if they stood alone, but which coming together in great numbers make up a day. The grain itself in comparison with the fruits, is hard and dry and less attractive, but still is more important than the fruits as food. The fruits are delicious and refreshing, but the grains are the main support of life. And is it on the larger, occasional works that life depends for its chief satisfaction, or on the little duties of every day? They are small; they are comparatively hard and dry and unattractive, but after all they are what make up the chief satisfaction of life. (John iv. 34; AC 5576, 5293)
It matters little what the work is that falls to us to do; the satisfaction we find in it, the support to our spiritual life, depends upon the motive in which we do it. Duties may be done from a great variety of motives. They may be done from necessity, or for the money they bring, or because it is right to do them, or from real enjoyment in being useful to others, or, best of all, they may be done for the Lord, in the effort to serve Him, following His example and His commandments. Duties done from lower motives may serve as well in supplying external needs; only the nobler motives are strengthening to the spiritual life, the real man. So the coarser grains are food for animals, but the noblest grains are more nourishing to human beings.
Name some of the different grains. What is the noblest of them all? Wheat is the grain best suited for food for men. It bears generously, but is more tender than some other grains, and needs good, rich soil. Another grain often mentioned in the Bible together with wheat, is barley. It is much like wheat, but is a smaller plant, more hardy, the heads protected by long, conspicuous beard. As food, it is coarser than wheat and less nourishing. Many other grains come to mind, rye, oats, rice, and maize; but they are less important for our present study.
What is the noble motive of duty to which wheat corresponds, which thrives only in the soil of "an honest and good heart," but which makes the daily uses the greatest possible strength and satisfaction to the spiritual life? Wheat surely corresponds to duty done for the Lord. And to what does the humbler companion, barley, correspond? To the doing of duties as of ourselves, yet with pleasure in increasing the comfort of others. This principle of duty grows more easily than the nobler motive, and although good, is not so nourishing to the spiritual life. (AC 7602-7605; AE 374; AR 315)
To what do the stalk and blade of the grain correspond? To the plan and thought preparatory to the doing of duties. "First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." (Mark iv. 28; AC 3518, 10669) Grasses belong to the same family with grains, but they are useful only for their sterns and blades, producing no edible seed. What do they represent? Knowledge and thought about duties with no immediate intention of doing them; for example, children's interest in learning about, and imitating in their play, things which are serious duties to older people. Such thoughts add much to the beauty and cheerfulness of the mind, and are helpful in strengthening the affections for usefulness, as grass is food for gentle animals. "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the ser vice of man." (Ps. civ. 14; AE 507; AC 29)
We have thought of grains nobler and humbler, and of grass which bears no edible seed; what shall we say of tares? They are a troublesome weed among the grain, the blade hardly distinguishable from the blade of wheat. The head is thin, but the seeds are heavy and with difficulty separated from the good grain; they are also somewhat poisonous. This evil plant, so like the good grain, suggests duties done to all appearance from the best of motives, but really with a selfish purpose which is hurtful to the spiritual life. In this world duties done in this spirit are not surely to be distinguished from those done for the Lord and the neighbor, but in the other world the real character of the work is plain. "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn. . . . The tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels." (Matt. xiii. 30, 38, 39; AE 911, 374, 426; CLJ 1; TCR 784)
Many passages from the Bible come to mind; in some, wheat and barley are mentioned; many times bread is named; "corn," we must remember, is used in the general sense of grain, especially wheat.
Recall the description of the promised land: "A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey." (Deut. Viii. 8) We have now studied all but one of these promised blessings. (For pomegranates see AC 9552) The wheat and barley are the genuine satisfaction, in the heavenly state of life, in doing the little duties in the service of the Lord and of one another. (AC 3941, 7602; AE 374) Why was the blessing of abundant harvests with the Israelites so dependent on their strict obedience to the Lord? Because the harvests represented the spiritual satisfactions which are found only in serving Him. "And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command thee this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give you the rain of your land . . . that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full." (Deut. xi. 13-15) This is the motive of life which gives genuine satisfaction in the round of duty, and which year by year, increases our knowledge of the goodness and wisdom of the Lord. (AE 376; AC 9780) "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! . . . He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee." (Ps. lxxxi. 13, 16) The Lord desires that we shall find the richest and best satisfaction in our work; and He would have us do it in His service, because done in that motive it is most truly satisfying. (AE 619, 374)
Remember the years of plenty and of famine in the land of Egypt. "And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities. . . . And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea. And all countries came into Egypt to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands." (Gen. xli. 48-57) The years of famine picture a time when plans for usefulness do not flourish and there is little satisfaction felt in doing good. At such times we must rely upon our memory of what we have learned is right and good in happier times. And we all have such a store laid up from the days when as children we learned the satisfaction of doing our duty well. (AC 5342)
We have seen how earnestly the Lord desires to teach men the right ways of doing life's duties, that they may find in them the fullest satisfaction. How many passages in the Gospel story show that the Lord was constantly doing this as He walked with men on earth! He likened Himself to a sower, and His words to seeds of grain. "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; . . . some fell upon a rock; . . . some fell among thorns; . . . and other fell on good ground. The seed is the word of God. . . . That on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." (Luke viii. 5-15) The Lord's words are grains of wheat, because they teach us how to do our duties in a heavenly spirit. They should spring up in our minds into intelligent plans for usefulness, and should result in duties done with heavenly satisfaction. (D. Life 90; AE 401; AC 3310)
On two occasions the Lord not only compared His instruction to grain, but He actually gave bread from His hand and fed the multitude. "Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the [barley] loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would." (John vi. 10, 11) Why did He feed them with barley loaves and not with "the finest of the wheat"? He gave as they were able to receive. Even today Christian people know little of the blessedness of doing their duties for the Lord, though many are sustained by the satisfaction of helping one another. The barley loaves represent the natural satisfaction, and the fishes the natural understanding, which people have been able to receive from the Lord. (AE 617, 430) "And it came to pass . . . that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands." (Luke vi. i) As the Lord's disciples listen to His words and see the example of His works, they are strengthened in the purpose to do their duty faithfully, not from any store of stale traditional learning, but from the living example of the Lord's own life. They pluck the growing grain and eat. (TCR 301)
This same purpose in His coming into the world - to teach us to do life's duties from heavenly motives, and to find in them strength and satisfaction for our souls - the Lord emphasizes when He says, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John vi. 51; AC 3813, 9412; TCR 707; AE 617) The Lord still is with us in His Holy Supper to give us this same help. This is the meaning of the bread used in that sacred service. '° As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body." (Matt. xxvi. 26) "This do in remembrance of me." (Luke xxii. 19; NJHD 210-2 14; TCR 702-710; AC 5405, 9412; AE 146) What spiritual blessing shall we especially desire when we say, "Give us this day our daily bread "? (Matt. vi. 11; AC 680, 2838, 2493)