Last night we took the evening to study what the bible says about sowing and reaping, and how it relates to our current situation. Here are the notes:
Galatians 6:7-10. There is danger that those who follow God can be deceived. For some reason, we could start to think that the principle of sowing and reaping is not a real thing. Two things become true if we forget this:
- We’re in danger of holding a view of the world which “mocks God.” In other words, Since God is the creator, and the Lord, of the world, if we act like the world is different than the one he made, we’re acting like he doesn’t matter at all.
- We’re in danger of “growing weary” in our lives of obedience to God. We’ll start to think that it doesn’t matter what we do, and we’ll lose heart and energy to do the difficult work of serving God in this world.
I read this quote this weekend, and I was surprised by how irrelevant it was to our cultural moment:
“God’s works in nature are designed to teach us great spiritual truths. The harvest is the crises of the year. To its importance all are alive. Our sustenance for a year depends on it. But harvest looks back to the previous year. Harvest depends on sowing. Let the field be unsown, and from its fallow surface you gather no crop of wheat. Sow the field, and such as the seed you cast in to the furrows in the sowing time, such is the crop in the reaping time.” R. Govett.
We’ve totally lost track of this in our daily life. We just don’t know or care when the harvest is, because we don’t need to. It doesn’t mean anything to us, because we get our food from a store. What this should show us is that culturally we have a block which leaves us open to the dangers Paul’s highlighting in Galatians 6. And it’s not just about the distance from farming most of us live in, it’s about our whole culture, which has reduced most activities in life down to economic transactions—we live in houses we didn’t build, we wear clothes we didn’t make, we can cook a meal by pushing a button, a lot of our entertainment is completely passive, and now even the activity of buying things can be done from our couch, with tapping our phones being the only effort required.
So then if you think about the areas of life where a lot of people don’t find success—I think we can admit they’re the areas of life where it’s impossible to short circuit the principle of sowing and reaping. Think about weight loss as far as it’s affected by eating and exercise, think about fitness in general, or think about learning an instrument, or learning a second language—or things like bible study and learning to practice the spiritual disciplines. And we see this in relationship building all the time—people want to come to a church and have friendships in a month—friendships with all the depth and companionship of a friendship that’s five or ten years old. And it just doesn’t work that way. So in all these areas you see a plague of quitting and lack of success. As a people, our technological power is robbing us of other, more human kinds of power—and the knowledge to use that power—which tells us that if we plant certain seeds, we reap certain crops.
Instead, we have a whole culture that mocks God and has absolutely no patience for enduring the hard life of pursuing truth and working righteousness.
But…the problem we have is that the Bible uses the principle of sowing and reaping in the world of farming to teach us things we need to know about spiritual life. It assumes we know what happens in out in the field every year, and that it can build on that obvious common knowledge to teach us about the rest of life, and eternal rewards too. So once we realize this, and that we’re culturally predisposed to miss the bible’s point here, it means we have to get serious about finding out what God says to us about all this in the scriptures.
So: What does the bible teach about sowing and reaping?
First, the scriptures point out that God uses the same principle to make food production work, that he uses in all of life. You take a number of seeds of some kind, and you plant them. You wait, and then later on, a multiplied amount of the plants that come from those seeds grow. The principles at work here are: organic connection, a waiting period, and multiplication. Or, as Pastor Joe says: “You always reap what you sow (that’s organic connection), you always reap after you sow (that’s a waiting period), and you always reap more than you sow (that’s multiplication).” These things are true in literally every area of life—in work, in relationships, in finances, in physical health, in mental health, in practicing a sport or an instrument, in the life of families and neighborhoods and nations. All other things being equal, there’s an organic connection between what you invest in now, and the results later. Sowing today produces a crop in the future. And it produces crop larger than the amount of investing you did.
The crucial question: Do we understand the principle of sowing and reaping in this life? And, do our lives make sense in that light?
Proverbs 20:4. What are we doing with our time? What are you doing with your youth, or your twenties? Are we expecting things out of life which our present activity can never produce?
Proverbs 20:4. What are we doing with our time? What are you doing with your youth, or your twenties?
Proverbs 6:10-11. As Derek Kidner says: “The lazy person won’t begin things, won’t finish things, won’t face things.” See also Proverbs 19:15, 24:30-34.
Hosea 8:1-7a. Culture-wide sowing and reaping. This begins to shade into the Spiritual-eternal areas of sowing and reaping. See also Hosea 10:12-15, and Jeremiah 4:3.
James 3:13-18. The New Testament holds out the same principle: “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” “The “peace” that is sown [here] probably is not Paul’s notion of “peace with God” but rather is peace and wholeness (shalom) within the community…James’s point is that those who do deeds of peace and promote peace thereby plant seeds and create an environment that eventually yields righteousness, not only for the sower, but also for the whole community to whom peace comes.” [from Dan McCartney’s commentary on James.]
Now we need to remember the principles of sowing and reaping in all of this: “You always reap what you sow (organic connection), you always reap after you sow (a waiting period), and you always reap more than you sow (multiplication).” So just because someone, or our whole country, are doing certain things now, and not seeing immediate results, doesn’t mean we won’t produce a crop in due time. And I’d like to submit to you, that one interpretation of all the craziness that’s going down these last few years—politically, environmentally, economically, socially—might just be this: maybe this is what it looks like when the harvest comes in.
But to stick closer to home, we need to ask ourselves, what am I doing with my time? What seeds are you sowing in your twenties? If the Bible is to be believed, what kind of crop are they going to bear? People want to sow nothing… and later reap something. People want to sow evil seeds, and expect to never reap an evil crop. The bible says it won’t work. And the flip side of the coin is, a lot of times we want to do something worthwhile, and immediately see fruit. And sometimes if we don’t see results immediately, we stop doing it. It’s cultural, and it’s pervasive. And as Christians we need to resist this kind of thinking and living. We need to not grow weary…
Second, the scriptures teach us that there’s a similar connection between sowing and reaping in things we often think of as “spiritual” and “eternal” things. (As an aside, I wonder if this is actually because the bible sees no difference between “ordinary” and “spiritual” things—this is a division we’ve artificially created. Maybe everything is at once physical, spiritual ordinary, and miraculous.)
The point is that the sowing in reaping we see in farming, and in the rest of life, is to teach us about the ultimate form of this truth: the eternal reaping. Forever, every inch of the created space which we humans occupy is infused with the principle of sowing and reaping.
Mark 4:26-29. The kingdom of heaven works on the same principle.
2 Corinthians 9:6-10. Paul tells us that we might organize our lives by thinking this thought: in eternity, how do I want to reap? Then we can decide how we want to “sow.”
Galatians 6:7-10. “Sowing to the flesh” is investing thought and action and time and resources into fulfilling human desires with no reference to God. It’s living to fulfill our wants and get pleasure in this present life. “Sowing to the Spirit” is investing thought and action and time and resources into fulfilling God’s desires (what he calls in 5:17 “the desires of the Spirit”). It’s living to fulfill God’s plans, and finding our highest pleasure in bringing him honor and glory forever. (If you want to practically learn how to do this, read: Romans 8:5-13, 2 Peter 1:3-11, Luke 12:33-34, Matthew 6:1-21, Matthew 10:41-42, Matthew 19:29, Matthew 25:14-46, Romans 2:3-10, Colossians 3:23-24.)
Psalm 126:5-6. There will be endurance, and even pain, associated with the faithful life of sowing for God. So to sum it all up:
We need to know that the universe, forever, works on a principle of sowing and reaping.
- We need to order our lives according to this truth, and let God teach us what and how to sow.
- We need to persevere in using our lives to sow what God directs us to sow, and as life gets long and hard, we need to keep one thing in mind: the harvest. The Holy Spirit invites us to think about and focus on the harvest of eternal life, righteousness, peace, and joy that’s promised to the believers. Keep sowing seed. Trust God to make the seed grow, even if it seems hidden in the ground, and trust God that the harvest will come.