How casually Christians mention God’s law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7)! Nevertheless, how solemnly we owe this law our undivided attention, for this universal law of God is an astonishing phenomenon. It is anything but casual! Treating it so loosely before our Creator is a telling measure of our true spiritual condition before Him.
The trap is in how we think about it. We want to treat it in a straight line of past and present without mixture. How often have we heard the saying, “The past is the past, so let’s forget the past and look to the future”? Such is the stuff of New Year’s resolutions. We fail to consider that our past behavior is the very reason we resolve to behave in a different manner. Worse, we fail to seriously consider that as we launch and practice our new behavior we have to deal with last year’s behavior! It is by no means a simple matter.
It is also erroneous thinking to assume sowing is something we consciously work up and execute, as if there was a choice of whether to sow or not sow. No, just being consciously alive is sowing. Dead people no longer sow; the living cannot avoid it. We all sow. God has created time for us, a parenthesis in eternity, if you will, wherein the one and only option given us is the “what” of sowing, not “whether” to sow. Sowing and reaping, after all, is a God-created fixture of nature. It is the scientist’s cause and effect. It is our Creator’s process of natural selection by humanity’s gift of free choice. There is no better example of this than our modern grocery market. Every edible item in there is the product of sowing and reaping, with the heaviest emphasis on the chosen quality of what to sow, with a view to please those who judge it for desirability. It is phenomenal that people shop there amid such an illustration, but fail to apply it’s vital principles to our own lives.
Perhaps the reason is that thinking of it in depth strains our mental processes. You see, when it comes to God’s law of sowing and reaping, we would do well to bear in mind that God’s law fixes it so that the past and the present join hands in a perpetual meeting. As we daily live our lives, our past refuses to be left behind, and after we pass it, then, just when we thought we were through with it, it races by us and meets us from the future! The result is that in the identical time element that we are sowing, we are also reaping! Such is the stark realism of God’s law of sowing and reaping.
Quite naturally, detractors will object that when God forgives our sordid past He “casts it into His sea of forgetfulness,” they say, to be remembered against us no more. Yes, that is an absolute truth of Scripture, although that quote is not a Scripture (there are many others with that meaning, such as Psalm 103:12). However, let us understand this. He is speaking of our sin against His Person. Yes, through salvation He wipes the slate clean of what separated us from His favor, but we go wrong in failing to consider that God’s forgiveness does not negate His established physical law of sowing and reaping. That might surprise many saints of God. However, I think we can all see that past recklessness in sin can create conditions that extend past salvation, all the way to our deathbed. A drunken spree can kill innocent people, resulting in a lifetime of regret. A poison tongue can make a lifelong enemy. Children, aborted, born out of wedlock, or maimed for life out of uncontrolled anger, is a painful memory. We only fool ourselves if we think our past sowing of thorns will not produce thorns to torment us, even if we cease sowing thorns and begin sowing wheat. Thus, with the blessings of the wheat, we must also deal with the thorns. Things will improve with time, of course, as we sow good seeds, but some thorns can needle us for a lifetime.
However, there is far more to this than we seem to think. You see, even though we receive God’s forgiveness for past sins, as we live in His forgiveness we may purposely or unknowingly sow questionable seeds. However, the manner or quality does not matter at all to God’s law of sowing and reaping, any more than it makes any difference as to the degree of our disobedience to His law of gravity. He causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). Perhaps the deadliest seed Christians sow is pride, preventing us from rising to faith, but forcing us into alternate explanations to justify a lower level of faith. One familiar quote coming from this is, “If it be thy will,” which in itself is bad seed that must be reaped. We cannot reap from the God of the impossible what pride has determined that He denied us. We must therefore live with that lack. This same God promised His people, Israel, that if they sowed righteous seed, He would give to them, “As the days of Heaven on earth” (Deut. 11:21). Instead, they chose to sow bad seed and so reaped thorns—even as they claimed favor with God!
Another aspect of God’s law of sowing and reaping is the misconception that it is an individual matter. Perhaps it will emphasize that error if we see sowing and reaping from the purely physical law of cause and effect. A violent storm, for instance, is not just an individual matter, although it is that, but a city matter, or a state matter or, as it was with hurricane Katrina, a national matter. However, the difference between the law of physics and that of the spiritual is in the cause of it. The direct cause of a tsunami is not human ingenuity, but the devastation of war is. Adolf Hitler came to power at the will of the German people. A devious mayor can wreck a city; a corrupt father can bring a curse to his family, and a minister’s bad doctrine can poison the minds of one church or a whole denomination, and more. Yes, sowing and reaping blesses or curses individuals, families, cities, states, and nations. It can change a whole lifetime, national history, and even the final record of accomplishment of the entire planet. All of this through God’s law of sowing and reaping where the whole process balances on our own choice of the quality of what we sow. Again, we must sow, and what we reap depends exactly on our own choice of what to sow. So states the law, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Another objection surely to be mentioned is Paul’s statement that when we accept God’s offer of salvation, we are then a new creature and, “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2nd Corinthians 5:17). Yes, this is absolutely true of our spiritual being, but certainly not of our physical existence here in God’s world of sowing and reaping. Otherwise, at our salvation our new creature would spiritually and physically, instantly be perfection on the same order of Adam and Eve before they sinned. No, even Paul never made such a claim. In that verse, then, Paul meant a rebirth of our spirit, soul, and body, but our bodies must wait for the physical resurrection before we realize complete perfection. Until then, our redeemed spirit must make the perpetual decision to sacrifice our physical body to righteous living as we daily walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh (See Romans 8).
For these very reasons Christians of the past separated themselves from the world, even as they lived and worked among them, so as to sow good seed and to perpetuate it by teaching it to their children. Any person, family, church, city, or nation who fails at this have sown bad seeds and must reap thorns, as surely as gravity will grab the feet of anyone who leaps from a great height under the false notion that they can avoid the fall.
Therefore, in light of these things, how, exactly, should one sow and how should one reap? In answer to this question, never let it slip that we do not have the option of “if” we sow. If we have a pulse, we absolutely must sow and we absolutely must reap.
Sowing must be the first consideration because if we would change the quality of the harvest we must alter what we are sowing. What, exactly, is the one and only existing key to sowing good seed? It is this: We can only change our sowing by coming to recognize good seed. Friends, that is no easy matter. Back to the grocery store example: Just how do we think those quality, salable products reached those shelves? Like this: Hard work, dedication, study, diligence, testing, patience, careful observation, and plain old hard-earned experience. That’s how! It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen through loose living, compromise and absenteeism. All of that is required for the walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh. We must force ourselves to sow against fleshly appetites for sensual pleasures. That walk does not come naturally, and so we must “Study to show thyself approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2nd Timothy 2:15). As Dr. D. James Kennedy wisely observed, “If you don’t study God’s Word, then I don’t know what you’re doing in church, for that’s what the church is all about.” We can sow seed that pleases God no other way at all, and only that seed produces a desirable crop.
How then should we reap? Again, bear in mind that reaping is not an option. We absolutely must reap even as we sow. Of course, reaping the fruits of good seed is a joy, but there are always those bad seeds we sowed earlier, which we must reap along with the good. Jesus called the bad crop “tares” which grew along with the wheat. He explained that they must grow together until the final harvest (judgment day) when they will all be reaped together, the wheat to be saved but the tares to be burned (Matthew 13). The lesson He taught is that both wheat and tares are a reality of life with which we must live. The context from which he drew this speaks of the importance of always sowing good seeds regardless of the tares that trouble us.
So here is the lesson we must learn if we expect to live the Christian life successfully: Our first and most crucial task is always to continue sowing good seed in the face of a bad crop which is always in the way and cripples us. We are to press forward in faith, calling upon God for strength and healing to overcome evil with good, and do it in all areas of our lives. Fainting at that is to discontinue sowing good seed, and to fall back on sowing bad seed—all of which we must reap! This can never be done through doctrinal compromise, or going along to get along in any way. It is a fight to the death until death, all the way, and never lets up. We must, as a godly pastor once said, “fight the Devil as long as I have strength, then bite him as long as I have teeth, then gum him until I die!” We must go ahead and take the beating, but then get up from the mud and go right back to sowing and reaping.
One final aspect of sowing: The planting of good seed is always self-sacrificing and blind. We sow for the purpose of reaping a good crop, but we ourselves might never see its fruits in this life. Therefore, we should simply sow out of love for God just because it is the right thing to do for Him, even if it appears that we sowed in vain. After all, God only equipped us to sow, not to germinate the seed and make it grow. God Himself will see to that in due season (“…but it is God that giveth the increase.” 1st Corinth. 3:6,7). It is especially important to keep these vital rules of sowing in mind when we sow into our youth activities, into our romances, into our marriage, into our offspring, into our health, into our employment, or into our politics, for therein lies the greatest potential for reaping ruin—usually sooner than we think. —DA