Sowing and Reaping
The words of the apostle Paul are ominous, fearsome, sobering, encouraging, and strengthening as he says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). When I was a young boy, the Baptist minister under whose ministry I sat between the ages of 10 and 20 preached a sermon on this text that made a crucial difference on how I handled my teenage years. I was at a stage when I was just beginning to question whether I wasn’t foolish for being a “goody-two-shoes.” After all, here I sit in church and the party is out there. Not only are they having all the fun, but they are pointing their fingers at me and laughing. I am missing out. Is it worth it? Galatians 6:7,8 answers this with a resounding yes!
“Do not be deceived,” introduces an undeniable truth. “This is an immutable law of God, which the phrase “God is not mocked” emphasizes, says Boice. God may not be “treated with contempt,” or “outwitted.” Don’t think that you “can ignore the commands God has given and go (your) own way with impunity,” as Morris puts it. “For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Don’t be fooled about this. Don’t deny for a moment that there is an inseparable connection between actions and consequences. If you sow corn, you will not reap wheat. This is a truism of agriculture. What you plant is what you will harvest. What you do will determine what you will become and where you go. What you put in is what you will get out. In the end, over the long haul, justice is served, we all get what we deserve. We become what we do. We cannot expect “to reap the fruit of the Spirit if we do not sow in the field of the Spirit,” Stott maintains. The adage put it like this: “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
As I mentioned, these verses had a hugely important impact on me as a schoolboy. My Baptist minister told us that if we sow immorality, sow drunkenness, sow drug abuse, sow dishonesty, then we would reap an awful harvest. It may not happen today or tomorrow. But do not be deceived, he told us. God is not mocked. You are not getting away with anything. He sees. He knows. He will visit upon you the judgments that your sins deserve. Scripture proves this over and over again, whether in the lives of Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Samson, Eli, Samuel, David, or Solomon.
If one might identify “the big lie,” of all the lies of our popular culture, it is that one can sin with impunity. Rarely are there any consequences for sin. The drunks are all funny drunks. They are the life of the party, beloved by all. They don’t seem to get in wrecks and kill people, like they do in real life. They don’t fail on their jobs and get fired. They don’t turn their homes into hell-holes. Sexual immorality is always romantic, glamorous, exciting, and air-brushed fun. Teenagers don’t get pregnant, like in the real world. No one gets a venereal disease. Single mothers don’t live in abject poverty. Adultery doesn’t lead to divorce and heartbroken children. If there is a divorce, it is happy for all. If there is an abortion, there are no regrets. Life is painless. Sin has no down side. The whole culture screams at our youth, do what you feel like doing. If you have an itch, scratch it. If you have a desire, fulfill it. But listen to what God says: don’t be deceived. He is not mocked. You will reap what you sow.
This universal law applies to the more subtle sinner as well as the blatant. Our neighbors, by and large, tend to live for the present. Even if they are not grossly immoral they are consumed with the temporal. They too are sowing the flesh. They give no thought to eternity. They pay no attention to their souls. They surround themselves with all the creature comforts and forms of entertainment that they can afford. They go from meal to ball game to a weekend away to new car to new clothes. This is what popular culture encourages as well. The characters on TV and in the movies don’t go to church. They don’t read the Bible. They don’t contemplate or discuss the eternal destiny of their souls. They are all, almost without exception, happy atheists. They live like there is no God. And there are no consequences. The message is, who needs God? One can be happy, fulfilled, satisfied from this world alone. One does not need the Bread of Life. One does not need Living Water. This world alone fulfills us. There is no empty space in the heart. There is no troubling sense of meaninglessness.
But what will they really reap from a lifetime of sowing this world? In this life, a deep, profound angst, an unrelieved sense of purposelessness, a trouble sense that surely there is something more to life. In the next world they will reap corruption and the opposite of eternal life, destruction. Wake up to what is going on all around us. We are “amusing ourselves to death,” as Neil Postman would say. This world is merely a preparation for the next. Sow the spirit, not the flesh. Concentrate on believing and obeying God, in cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. Remember that there is no profit in gaining the whole world, with all its prestige, power, pleasure, if you lose your own soul in the process (Mt 16:26). “Paul is reminding the Galatians that they should get their priorities right and give time and energy to that which concerns ultimate issues,” says Morris, “and not merely the passing things of here and now.”
Similarly we might ask, why do some Christians grow in holiness while others do not? Because holiness is a harvest. It depends on what one sows. Do you want to grow in spiritual maturity? Do you look around and see strong, knowledgeable, zealous Christians and wish you were more like they? Well, what are you doing about it? What you sow you will reap. What are you sowing? You are sowing something. What is it? You will harvest exactly what you are sowing. If you do not sow spiritual commitments how can you expect a spiritual harvest? If you are not regular in public worship; if you do not spend time daily in the word and prayer; if you do not practice tithing and sacrificial giving; if you do not practice the other disciplines of the Christian life such as Sabbath observance; if you do not practice sacrificial service, how can you expect to harvest the fruit of the Spirit? How can you become Christ-like if you don’t feed on the Bread of Life? You will reap what you sow. It is that simple.
Yet for all that we’ve said so far a real Christian is tremendously encouraged by this passage. Why? Because it guarantees that his sacrifices pay off in the end. Real Christians have a hard time fitting in these days. They are absolutists in a day of relativism. They are particularists in a day of pluralism. They believe in right and wrong. They believe in truth and error. For much of the world this makes us Neanderthals. Worldlings are shocked at our closed-mindedness. They are horrified at our judgmentalism. They are disgusted by our narrowness. This means that many “nice” and “fun” people will not like us. This means that we may be socially ostracized and rejected. There are organizations which we may never be asked to join. There are parties that we may never be asked to attend. We may feel isolated. We may have our feelings hurt. We may hurt for our children, who don’t understand and suffer the consequences of our convictions. Is it worth it? Yes it is. How do we know? Because God promises that we will reap what we sow. Our obedience, our faithfulness, will pay huge dividends that those who sow the flesh will never see.
My uncle Abe visited our family at the time of my grandmother’s death in 1966. At the time he boasted of having bought a drawer full of stock in a Japanese photography company. He said it was called “Fuji Foto.” We laughed and laughed. That was the funniest name we ever heard. “Fuji, Foto,” ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Uncle Able had the last laugh. The world is like what we were. Worldlings cannot see the value of living by the Spirit. All that they can see is the flesh. They laugh and laugh at us. But come harvest time, come time to collect the profits of a lifetime of investing, they will reap nothing but corruption, but we will reap eternal life.