The Peril of Self-Deception

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (v. 7)  

- Galatians 6:7–8

Material provision for teachers as part of Spirit-led living was Paul’s focus in Galatians 6:6, a principle he applies more broadly in verses 7–10. The apostle tells us our efforts have consequences, inspiring us to do the right thing.

God cannot be mocked (v. 7); the Lord never forgets whether we live by our flesh or His Spirit. Familiar to both the Hebrew prophets (Hos. 8:7) and first-century pagans is Paul’s illustrative proverb: “Whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). What we do has a logical end; our deeds will be repaid. This is not impersonal fate or karma, as only the personal, omniscient, holy Judge of all (Rev. 20:11–15) can ensure that we will get what we deserve (Gal. 6:8).

Of course, Paul is not here abandoning justification by faith alone for a works-salvation. He is teaching what happens after we profess Christ. We who prove that we belong to Jesus by following His way (James 2:14–26) do so only because the Holy Spirit has changed our hearts, and even then our remaining sin makes our works undeserving of a reward. But John Calvin reminds us: The Lord kindly rewards “the works which his grace has enabled us to perform.”

Paul warns us not to sow to the flesh so as not to reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). We must not, Calvin says, be so wholly “devoted to the flesh, as to direct all our thoughts to its interests or convenience.” Clearly, doing the vices of Galatians 5:19–21 feeds the lingering rebellion within, but we probably never question the evil of such things. So in keeping with the immediate context of supplying the pastor’s needs (6:6), let us consider what it might look like to sow with our money to the Spirit — to invest in the kingdom’s growth — not the flesh. God does bless us financially that we may enjoy His bounty (Eccl. 8:15; 9:7–10), but those of us in the affluent West can take this maxim too far and confuse needs with wants, thinking that large salaries require lavish lifestyles. For us, sowing to the Spirit involves the cultivation of generosity, an attitude that is eager to give to the point of real sacrifice in order that the work of the kingdom can be funded adequately. Sowing to the Spirit with our money means that we joyfully go out of our way to support the work of God in this world.

Coram Deo

Augustine comments, “To sow in the spirit is to serve righteousness from faith and with love and not to heed the desires of sin” (ACCNT vol. 8, p. 93). The desires of sin would have us withhold all of our money, but the love of Christ compels us to be generous and share what we have, even if it is not very much. How can you show forth generosity in the name of Jesus today? How does your checkbook reflect your spiritual priorities?

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 11:18–19
Romans 2:1–11
1 Cor. 6:9–10
2 Corinthians 9

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