“Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!””. – Revelation 6:6 (NIV)
Can you imagine a country where a bottle of wine was cheaper to buy than a loaf of bread? The third horseman, traditionally known as “Famine” brings out this message to the people as the third seal is broken. He brings them into a world where a person has to work a whole day, just to buy a little grain for making bread – one of the most basic foods, but the oils and wines remain inexpensive by comparison. This horseman’s nature has less to do with agriculture, or even economics as many these days have wondered, and more to do with priorities. You see, when we trade the essentials (wheat and barley) for luxury items (olive oil and wine) we become unbalanced, constantly trying to fill vacancies in ourselves with things that cannot do the job. Sure, if you drink enough wine, your starving stomach may quit rumbling for a little bit, or perhaps you will just cease to feel or care about your hunger… but you won’t be able to live a full life like that. Your relationships, your responsibilities, your work and eventually your health will all suffer, and, as you lose your way, others around you will be affected as well. Those who follow you will be led astray. Those who depend on you will have to pick up the slack and seek help elsewhere. Misappropriated priorities are a downward spiral to destruction.
Wheat and barley are valuable, but not because of what they are by themselves. Whereas livestock may enjoy munching on raw wheat and barley, human beings generally don’t consume grain right from the field. It takes time, effort, and work to harvest wheat, to grind it up, to sift out the inconsistencies, and to finally have fresh, pure, flour. However, it is worth the effort because, unlike the wine and olive oil, which is consumed often by itself, or perhaps simply as an ingredient to flavor other food, the flour can be transformed into hundreds of other types of food. Unlike the very temporary and often destructive nature of wine and oil, wheat and barley are creative by their very nature and inspire us to put our heads and hands to work to make something creative – just as our Heavenly Father is creative. It strengthens us with the nutrients that we need to live, to love, to work, to play, and to be vessels of redemption in this world.
Finally, in Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus compares people to wheat in a parable about letting the good grow with the bad until the harvest comes. Unlike wine, people do not get better simply by sitting around getting older. Rather, we, like the wheat, need to be tended, nurtured, harvested, even put under the grinding wheel occasionally to root out our inconsistencies, to be brought back to a pure state in which God, in His infinite wisdom, power, and creativity, can shape and bake us into the wide diversity of breads that this world needs to live. As Jesus let Himself be grown, ground, baked, and broken for us… so we, as His disciples must daily put ourselves in God’s hands – our most important priority of all, and let him grown, grind, bake, and break us to redeem the broken world.
Put Christ first.