You Reap What You Sow (Galatians 6:6–10)

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6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

“Why didn’t someone tell me about reaping?” The anguished cry came from the lips of one who was beginning to receive the harvest of sowing to the flesh. “Tell everyone you meet, it’s not worth it!”

Mistakenly, the person thought his “payday” had arrived. What he didn’t know was he had received only the first fruits of the harvest. Sad to say, there was much more to come. And the greatest tragedy? It all could have been avoided!

Our Scripture passage teaches that each one of us is daily sowing to the flesh or to the Spirit. Sow to the Spirit and reap a harvest of blessing. Sow to the flesh and reap a harvest of sorrow and adversity. Ignorance of this irrevocable truth lies behind such trite phrases as, “We all have to sow a few wild oats,” or “Oh, go ahead, God will forgive you.”

But, from Cain’s sullen lament, “My punishment is greater than I can bear,” to Judas’ silent remorse and suicide, we have stark testimony of the bitter harvest produced by sowing to the flesh. Godly sorrow, repentance, even forgiveness from God, and restitution, do not alter the painful harvest.

The warning, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” needs to be emblazoned in brilliant six-foot high letters in everyone’s mind. There are three truths I wish to share from our text.

There are two contrary realms in which one can sow, two contrasting results of sowing, and six consequential laws of sowing. These laws are called “the laws of the harvest”.

The Two Contrary Realms in Which One Can Sow (6:8)

We can sow to the flesh or we can sow to the Spirit. The immediate context of our passage gives several examples of sowing to the Spirit. When we bear one another’s burdens we are sowing to the Spirit (6:2) When we financially support faithful teachers of God’s Word, we are sowing to the Spirit (6:6).

The larger context of the book of Galatians teaches us many ways to sow to the Spirit.

  • Obedience to Scripture is sowing to the Spirit.
  • Expressing Christlike attitudes is sowing to the Spirit.
  • To manifest love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control is to sow to the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
  • To be led by the Spirit and to walk in the Spirit is sowing to the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).

On the other hand, to be self-centered, critical of others, or envious of others is sowing to the flesh (Gal. 5:15, 26). Parents can sow within their children a critical spirit by finding fault with everyone and everything.

When the parents begin to reap what they have sown, as their grown children criticize them and reject their values, they are often bewildered. The thought that they are reaping what they sowed never enters their mind! Paul lists many practices that illustrate sowing to the flesh.

Such things as marital unfaithfulness, sexual impurity, indecency, sensuality, involvement with the occult, hatred, quarrels, fits of temper, selfish ambition, dissension, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and allowing other things to take God’s place in our life are ways one sows to the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).

Sowing to the flesh begins in the thought-life. Every time you harbor resentful thoughts, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, wallow in self-pity, speak ill of another person, or fail to carry out your responsibilities through procrastination or laziness, you are sowing to the flesh.

Sowing to the flesh begins in the thought-life

On the other hand, when you choose to forgive, not to meditate on grievances or harbor resentful feelings, you are sowing to the Spirit.

When you bring your imaginations and thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Jesus Christ, you are sowing to the Spirit (2 Cor. 10:3-5). When you refuse to tell something negative about another person (even though it is true!), you are sowing to the Spirit.

Each time you speak the truth, honor your word, pay your bills, offer praise to God for His goodness, you are sowing to the Spirit.

The Two Contrasting Results of Sowing (6:8)

Just as there are two contrary realms in which one can sow, there are two contrasting results of sowing.

If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption. “Corruption” speaks of physical decay and moral rottenness that ultimately leads to eternal death.

If we sow to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. The essence of everlasting life is to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ His Son (John 17:3; 1 John 5:11).

The Six Consequential Laws of Sowing

There are six consequential laws of sowing that cannot be circumvented. The phrase, “God is not mocked,” means that God cannot be outwitted, nor His Word ignored, without severe consequences.

WE REAP ONLY WHAT HAS BEEN SOWN

If we stop and think about it, we will realize that much of what we reap we never planted. Many of us are reaping the benefits of the good and godly deeds of Christian parents. Some of us are reaping sorrow and heartbreak because “significant others” in our circle of relationships sowed to the flesh. If we could see the immediate results of our choices, most of us would sow only to the Spirit.

However, “because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccles. 8:11). The absence of immediate consequences and ignorance of the laws of the harvest emboldens people to continue wrongdoing. It is especially important for fathers to understand this law of the harvest.

God explicitly warns fathers four times that their sins will be visited upon their children unto the third and fourth generations (Ex. 20:5; 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9; Jer. 32:18). This means that not only the evil consequences of their sins will be transmitted to their descendants.

If you wish to have godly children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, do not sow to the flesh; sow to the Spirit.

WE REAP THE SAME KIND AS WE SOW

If we sow wheat, we will reap wheat. If we sow a kindness, we will reap kindness. If we sow a lie, unfaithfulness, or discord, we will reap the same. The warning, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7), behooves us to be very careful what we sow.

Jacob deceived his father Isaac by lying and using a baby goat to prepare him “venison,” convincing his aged and blind father he was Esau. Years later, Jacob reaped this deceit when his own sons lied to him and used the blood from a baby goat smeared on Joseph’s coat of many colors to convince Jacob that Joseph was dead (compare Gen. 27:9-29 with Gen. 37:31-35).

Jacob’s heart was broken and he mourned over the loss of his son. Without knowing the cause-effect relationship, he was reaping what he had sowed! Jacob schemed to get the blessing due to the firstborn.

He reaped what he sowed when Laban tricked him with the rights of the firstborn and required him to marry Leah before Rachel (Gen. 29:20-26). King David coveted his neighbor’s wife, committed adultery, bore false witness, and ultimately murdered to cover his sin (2 Sam. 11:2-21).

David’s confession and forgiveness did not stop the harvest (Ps. 51). He reaped every one of these sins within his own family. Paul caused great suffering for Christians before his conversion. He later reaped great suffering for the Gospel of Christ (Acts 9:16; 2 Cor. 11:23-27).

David’s confession and forgiveness did not stop the harvest. He reaped every one of these sins within his own family

Is there a connection between Paul’s role in Stephen’s stoning and the time Paul was stoned and left for dead (Acts 7:58; Acts 14:19)?

WE REAP IN A DIFFERENT SEASON THAN WE SOW

Many people are sowing “wild oats” through the week and then going to church on Sunday and praying for a crop failure. And many think their prayers are answered because nothing goes wrong immediately. They forget that the harvest never comes immediately after planting. The harvest comes in God’s time — His appointed season.

Paul said, “And let us not be weary in well going; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). An example of this law is seen in God’s judgment on Israel. They failed to obey the Sabbatical year law which required rest for the land every seventh year (Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:1-7; Deut. 15:1; 31:10).

The people thought God’s postponement of judgment proved that God didn’t really care whether or not they planted crops on the Sabbatical year. It probably seemed “nonessential” compared to the moral and social problems of society.

They failed, however, to reckon with the nature of God: He does not lie. Whatever is sown will be reaped!

WE REAP MORE THAN WE SOW

In the world of farming, this law of surplus is what makes sowing worthwhile. For every kernel of corn planted, the farmer hopes to gain at least one ear of corn bearing many kernels. If it were not for this law, no farmer would plant anything. In the spiritual realm, this law also holds true.

Hosea 8:7 warns, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” There is a chain reaction that takes place when you do wrong. Achan, in secret, disregarded the official ban placed upon the spoils of Jericho and all it contained.

Thinking no one would know, he stole a robe, some silver, and some gold. What was the result? In the next battle, 36 innocent men lost their lives because of Achan’s secret sin (Josh. 7:1, 5-26).

Achan’s punishment? He and his entire family were executed, and all his possessions were burned with fire. He sowed the wind, and he reaped the whirlwind! King David caused the premature death of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, because he coveted his neighbor’s wife.

What did David reap? Four of his sons died premature deaths (Shimea, 2 Sam. 12:19; Amnon, 2 Sam. 13:28-29; Absalom, 2 Sam. 18:14; and Adonijah, 1 Kings 2:24-25). We always reap more than we sow!

WE REAP IN PROPORTION AS WE SOW

The difference between this law and the previous one is that although we always reap more than we sow, our reaping is determined by the quantity of our sowing. If a person sows one acre with wheat, he will receive what one acre can produce.

However, if he sows 100 acres, he will receive what 100 acres can produce. This law operates both positively and negatively. The more one sows to the Spirit, the more he reaps the blessings of a righteous harvest.

The more one sows to the flesh, the more he reaps the sorrow of an unrighteous harvest. This law teaches us why it is much better to be saved early in youth rather than late in old age.

The more one sows to the flesh, the more he reaps the sorrow of an unrighteous harvest

It is also the reason we are urged to be zealous to do good works (Titus 3:1).

WE REAP THE FULL HARVEST OF THE GOOD ONLY IF WE PERSEVERE; THE  EVIL COMES TO HARVEST ON ITS OWN

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). Everyone who has planted vegetables or worked with a garden knows that much labor is necessary to produce a bountiful harvest. If, after planting, the garden is neglected, weeds will spring up and choke out much of the desired harvest.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. The only way we will enjoy the blessings of an abundant harvest is if we persevere. This is not true of sowing to the flesh. Once evil is sown, it comes to harvest on its own.

This is illustrated in Ezekiel 3:20. When a righteous person turns from continued obedience to God’s Word, and commits iniquity, and God lays a stumbling block before the person, and he or she dies in that sin, God says that the righteous deeds which that person has done will not be remembered. “In his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die” (Ezek. 18:24; see also 33:12, 13).

Heed God’s Warning

We have seen that there are two contrary realms of sowing, two contrasting results of sowing, and six consequential laws of sowing.

Do not ignore God’s warning and deceive yourself into thinking that somehow you are an exception. Whatsoever a person sows, that also shall he reap! If we sow to the flesh we shall of the flesh reap corruption. If we sow to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

There are irrevocable consequences of sowing. If there are areas in your life in which you are sowing to the flesh, stop it now. You can’t do anything about what you sowed in the past, but you can do something about what you sow today.

By God’s grace, purpose to sow only to the Spirit. Persevere in godliness until the bountiful harvest of God’s blessings comes to bless you and all those around you.

 


 

Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.

Allan Brown
Dr. Allan Brown is Professor and Chair of the Division of Ministerial Education at God's Bible School & College. He holds his PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several books and articles.