This commentary was originally published on Friday, December 23, 2011.
Sowing and Reaping
What is sowing? It is to plant seed for growing, especially by scattering. What is reaping? It is to cut or clear with a scythe, sickle, or machine; to gather by or as if by cutting the harvest. Another definition is reward. What is a harvest? As a noun it can be the mature crop of what was sown. It can also be the act of gathering the crop. It is also the season in which the crop is ready to be gathered. Also, it is the product or reward of effort. As a verb it is to gather in a crop; a synonym of reaping. How do the concepts relate? One is the cause the other the effect. The harvest is the product of what is sown. So you reap or harvest what you have previously sowed. If you sow wheat you will harvest or reap wheat. If you sow orange seeds, you will harvest oranges. Less we take it for granted: you cannot sow cherries and expect mangoes.
Another thing is that there is a process for the seed to grow into what will be harvested. This means that time has to pass by. This implies then that there is a season to sow and a season to reap. Sow outside of that season and your harvest will be affected. There are other considerations: type of soil, climate, moon phase, etc. All of these will affect the harvest you get from what you sow.
The following illustration (found in our lesson study) reveals the relationship between sowing and reaping. Some potato farmers decided to save the biggest potatoes for themselves and to plant the smaller potatoes as seed. After a few disappointing harvests, they discovered that nature had reduced their potato crops to the size of marbles. Through this disaster, those farmers learned an important law of life. They could not have the best things of life for themselves and use the leftovers for seed. The law of life decreed that the harvest would reflect the planting (sowing). Small potatoes will yield small (or even smaller) potatoes. They reaped what they sowed.
There is an application to life. "In another sense, planting small potatoes is still common practice. We take the big things of life for ourselves and plant the leftovers. We expect that by some crazy twist of spiritual laws, our selfishness will be rewarded with unselfishness."—International Student Fellowship Newsletter, March 2007.
So let's consider this: whenever believers' lives are dominated by secular media—television, radio, Internet, and so on—how can they expect significant spiritual progress? What if on the other hand the believer spent time praying and studying the word of God? There are higher chances of spiritual progress.
Paul seems to understand this. It is probably why he applies this principle in Galatians 6:1–10. Spiritual attainments are proportionate with spiritual investments. Those who desire greater spiritual strength must engage in spiritual exercise and avoid spiritual fast food. Little investment equals little advancement. Spiritual profitability arises from investing time with spiritual things. Now Paul's metaphor about sowing and reaping is not unique. It is a fact of life that appears in many ancient proverbial sayings. What is significant, however, is how Paul uses it to highlight his previous comments about the flesh and the Spirit. Let us read Galatians 6: 7 - 9
Galatians 6: 6-9 (NKJV)
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
A modern colloquialism that is based on this concept is, "no pain, no gain." Another similar one is, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." James D. G. Dunn notes, "A modern equivalent is that we are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our choice."—Galatians, p. 330.
Ellen White comments on this,
"The Spirit of God keeps evil under the control of conscience. When man exalts himself above the influence of the Spirit, he reaps a harvest of iniquity. Over such a man the Spirit has less and less influence to restrain him from sowing seeds of disobedience. Warnings have less and less power over him. He gradually loses his fear of God. He sows to the flesh; he will reap corruption. The harvest of the seed that he himself has sown, is ripening. He has a contempt for God's holy commandments. His heart of flesh becomes a heart of stone. Resistance to truth confirms him in iniquity. It is because men sowed seeds of evil, that lawlessness, crime, and violence prevailed in the antediluvian world.
"All should be intelligent in regard to the agency by which the soul is destroyed. It is not because of any decree that God has sent out against man. He does not make man spiritually blind. God gives sufficient light and evidence to enable man to distinguish truth from error. But He does not force man to receive truth. He leaves him free to choose the good or to choose the evil. If man resists evidence that is sufficient to guide his judgment in the right direction, and chooses evil once, he will do this more readily the second time. The third time he will still more eagerly withdraw himself from God and choose to stand on the side of Satan. And in this course he will continue until he is confirmed in evil, and believes the lie he has cherished as truth. His resistance has produced its harvest (MS 126, 1901)."—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1112.
So, as Paul says in Romans 1: 18 – 32 that God has to let those who
refuse His grace go. Not as punishment, but because they chose to
leave. So, in making their choice they also chose the consequence. It
is not God who punishes them; they are suffering the unfortunate
consequences of their own choices. Our eternal destiny will reveal the
choice we made. It will reveal what we sowed. In the end no one will