John 4:38 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 4:38, NIV: "I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.'"

John 4:38, ESV: "I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”"

John 4:38, KJV: "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours."

John 4:38, NASB: "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you havecome into their labor.'"

John 4:38, NLT: "I sent you to harvest where you didn't plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.'"

John 4:38, CSB: "I sent you to reap what you didn't labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.""

What does John 4:38 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The prior verses are meant to be both comforting and challenging to Christians. In a physical field, it is not uncommon for one person to plant the seeds, while another eventually harvests the finished goods. Harvest is a time of joy, and so the work of the harvester tends to get more glory. And yet, both are required in order for the crops to be brought in.

Jesus has made a comparison between fields ready for harvest and the approaching crowd of Samaritans (John 4:35). These particular men are approaching thanks to the testimony of a Samaritan woman (John 4:29–30). There's good reason to think that these people have heard something of the gospel from others (John 4:25). In other words, this is a field which has been seeded and only needs to be harvested. The disciples didn't teach the Samaritans about the Messiah, and they certainly didn't bring anyone back to meet Jesus.

This is why Jesus reminds them that their task: "reaping" for the sake of heaven, is not something they themselves worked for. Others have done the work to this point, but now the responsibility is on the disciples to finish.