Book Review: A Pocketful of Seeds by Debbie Johnson
A positive new book, A Pocketful of Seeds, gathers 12 months’ worth of seed-sowing actions for each day of the year. Some seek answers; some are creative; some ask reflective questions; almost all of them calls to action. They are short opportunities to make an impact and draw out a better world by fostering an attentiveness to connect with others through love, kindness, and service.
March 11 urges us to collect loose change and donate the proceeds to a charity by the end of the month. Do this every month and you have twelve causes that have been helped by coins you barely miss.
May 18 challenges us to adopt a new habit by making a concerted effort for 21 days—enough time for it to form a habit.
Repurpose clothing by not buying clothes for an entire year.
The plans here, for the most part, are to change the world by being intentional every day. Though these daily seeds are meant to plant action in a world and culture that is so destructively self-absorbed, most are inspired not just by Christ’s teaching alone but by eastern thought and Greek philosophy, quoting motivational speakers, movies, and thought leaders. The calls to action possess some semblance of scriptural influence sprinkled here and there, but overall, these seeds promote a global effort and devotion to a moral and ethical service which invites even the secular reader, summoning a shared experience with others through moments of grace, mercy, and ministry.
A Pocketful of Seeds is a profound thought because it reminds us to sow what we can with what we are given, yielding a purpose in action. It can be read as an attempt to humanize this fallen world where we ought to stretch ourselves to help our neighbor, our fellow man while delighting in what our hands can accomplish. Everyone by default has been given a pocket of seeds via our talents, gifting, and capacities and the intention here is to encourage the reader to take her seeds and plant them wherever she goes.
Johnson says: “Here’s the way I see it. After Jesus died and rose again, He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for what the Father had promised. Then He ascended into heaven and later, the Spirit came. Power arrived. And if we’re Christ-followers, we have that same power. I think of that power as my pocketful of seeds.”
The seeds here are inspired by the teachings of Christ, but my wish is that they cover scripture more comprehensively. If Christ’s teachings are only inspiration for these seeds we are recommended to sow, then it opens influence from other kinds of philosophies to cast a shadow.
One of the most evocative pleas is for the widow (August 16) which has about 82 references in the Bible. Johnson reminds us that we must always remember widows and orphans. “God seem (sic) to have a special place in His heart for them.”
While we are to do good within the body of Christ, we are also called to be a light in the dark, secular world. Activities which shine a beacon of hope improves the situation of others, yes, but biblically speaking, are we to only presume to do good unto others? Social service carried out in the name of Christ tends to depict to the world an image of Jesus that is only charitable and egalitarian. Jesus as a generous giver to all is not the chief motivation of our faith and to suggest that this is what Christ envisioned for mankind exclusively is not altogether Biblical.
In Matthew, it is recorded:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Jesus is specific here about what we are to do with those who are disenfranchised. We are to preach the gospel to them and not merely attempt to rescue them with deeds that will assist their standard of living. The material needs of the world, while important, wasn’t the ultimate reason why Christ came to earth to dwell among us and then die on the cross. The spiritual needs of the world were of utmost importance to Christ then, as they are today. Therefore, the decisive mandate of the gospel is not equity and service, but salvation.
Making the world a better place with seeds of goodness is a great thought; the intention is well-meaning, it is understood as well as it is needed. And it is appreciated when it is received in the fullness of gratitude and humility. The giver is rewarded with satisfaction, knowing that he made a difference in someone else’s life.
However, we are warned time and again in scripture that this world is not our home, that we are just passing through and considering how we live in a sinful world, we should expect to see needs of every nature across all the corners of the world. Our deeds of kindness and making the world a better place are noted, but they are secondary works to the chief work of the gospel. Christ didn’t only improve the material lives of others with His miracles and benevolence but He intended to point the masses to His heavenly Father. Doing good for others alone isn’t what we are commanded to do if we are to live Christ-like, following His teachings and not merely be inspired by them.