“I wish I had a plow."
My sweaty sixteen-year-old and I had engaged our parched garden, more clay and weeds than topsoil and tomatoes. I brandished the dull hoe and he, the even duller shovel.
I did a little checking. Some of the oldest plows were wood structures fitted with a metal tip—a plowshare—designed to open farm ground for sowing seed, creating room for roots, and clearing weeds. (I think the fine print said don’t even think about using old hoes and shovels to do a plow’s job.)
Joel, Micah and Isaiah spoke of plowshares and swords in the same breath. In their times the metal of one was often beaten to form the other, depending on need—war or peace. How did the Hebrews know when to fashion which?
And what do plowshares and swords have to do with Christian writers of fiction? Like metal, words are a currency. Both require careful handling. Both require increasing accuracy and artistry. Skillfully wrought and wielded, both are highly effective. And both serve divergent purposes depending on the need.
King Solomon compared rash speech to thrusts of the sword. Paul called Scripture the sword of the Spirit. The writer of Hebrews declared Scripture sharper than any two-edged sword, plunging straight to the soul. Like swords, words do battle.
Scripture writers linked plowing with diligent hard work, always with a view to a harvest. If we pursue the metaphor, words can open hardened hearts, invite lives to deepen, and promote fruitfulness.
You, gentle writer, cradle a precious currency. Life and death are in the power of your tongue. Your wise tongue can bring healing. And sometimes healing requires a fight.
How do you and I know when to take up a sword and when to put our hands to the plow?
Look at King Solomon, who confessed to God, “I am but a little child …so give Your servant an understanding heart" (2 Kings 3).
Consider King Jehoshophat, who cried out to God, “We are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (2 Chronicles 20).
Ponder Jesus, who did not speak on His own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Him commanded Him what to say and what to speak (John 12).
Wait. Ask. Listen. Speak.