My home is surrounded by fields. In our area, corn and soybeans are the most common crops. But there is also the occasional pasture, along with some wheat, garden crops, and hay nearby. A few weeks ago, a farmer planted seeds in the field next to our house. We didn’t know what seeds were being planted until some round soybean sprouts made their appearance a few days ago. Sowing seeds and reaping a harvest was also on Paul’s mind as he wrote to the Galatians.
Paul wrote, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 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. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Galatians 6:6–10, NASB95)
Let’s get a frequent misuse of these verses out of the way first. Paul’s focus is not on money or possessions when he says, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” Too often, these verses have been used to “fleece the flock.” While the “good things” could include financial support for those who labor in God’s field, there’s more to it than just that.
Speaking as a teacher, what I want most is to see and hear is how folks are putting God’s word into practice. That the folks impacted by my labors would seek to sow the good seed of “doing good to all people, and especially those who are of the household of faith.” Money and finances may help us buy a larger field (or cast a larger net). The goal, however, is not wealth but changed lives in Christ.
This Biblical truth of reaping and sowing is evident in the world around us. So much so that it is not exclusive to the Bible. Other religions and worldviews have some concept of reaping what you sow. As Romans 1:20 reminds us, God does make Himself known in the world around us. For those interested in theology, that is called God’s General Revelation, while the Bible is God’s Specific Revelation.
But turning from the high mountain of theology, what does all this mean for us living in the valley? This portion of Paul’s letter challenges us to examine the seeds we are sowing in our lives and in the lives around us. Are we sowing according to the flesh? See Galatians 5:20-21 for what those seeds are like. Or are we sowing according to the Holy Spirit? See Galatians 5:22-23 for what those seeds are like. Are we sowing anger or love? Are we sowing self-indulgence or self-control? Are we sowing intolerance or mercy? Ah, but that last one isn’t in the lists of Galatians 5:20-23. Right, Paul’s lists are often starting points rather than exhaustive of every possibility. Taking the whole of the Bible, there are many more seeds to be sown. For instance, sowing hope instead of despair.
Holding on to hope is something Paul encourages in our passage from Galatians 6. “Let us not lose heart in doing good,” Paul encouraged, “for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” That time between seed and harvest varies greatly. For corn, it’s about 120 days. For radishes, it is only a few weeks. For apples, it is several years. Don’t give up; keep sowing good seed for in due time there will be a harvest.
You see, my hope as a teacher of God’s word is in multiplication. I plant seeds. You reap a harvest and plant those seeds in the lives of others. They, in turn, reap a harvest and plant seeds to many more. Or, to put it another way. There are five seeds in almost every apple, but how many apples are in each seed? Only God knows the answer to that one.