“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he 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,” (Gal 6:7-8).
The day-to-day fight against sin and temptation can lead us to being deceived. A small compromise here, a few sins there, a little breaking of commandments all around and…the sky doesn’t fall down upon us. In fact, life seems to just keep on rolling. And that can leave us feeling like maybe we need not worry so much about being overly “strict” in our obedience.
And if that is where you are, Galatians 6:7-8 is like a wailing fire alarm here to warn you: You have been deceived! You are mocking God! If you plant the seed of flesh, you cannot expect the plant of the Spirit to grow up. You can’t expect to reap eternal life! Time is needed for the full consequence of our actions to come into flower. But don’t confuse the slowness of harvest with the absence of judgment. You will reap what you sow.
And that is a sobering warning.
But, I don’t think that is the primary note Paul intends to hit with this passage. Rather, I think the primary thrust that Paul is trying to make here is one of encouragement for weary Christians. I think this becomes clear when we zoom out a bit and see the verses before and after:
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. 9 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. – Galatians 6:6-10
In v. 6 Paul encourages the church to financially support the teachers of the church and again in v. 10 he encourages the church to aim to “do good to everyone,” but to especially focus on the church. So, the bookends of the passage are aimed at encouraging Christians to continue in their work of love and charity to all, but especially to the church and her teachers. And in-between them, in vs. 7-9, he introduces this principle of sowing and reaping. So, the spirit of the whole section is this: keep doing good, Christian, because you will reap what you sow! Which is why Paul draws our attention in verse 9 to the weariness we can feel in our good works, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Why does Paul tell us that? Because we will be tempted to give up and to grow weary. Eugene Peterson describes the Christian life as “a long obedience in the same direction.” And, at times, that “long obedience” can feel dry, tiring, and hard. We can walk through deserts where God seems distant, our heart feels cold, and sin looks really enticing. We might even start to think why bother… with our prayers, our evangelism, our self-denial, our giving, and our good works.
Pretty soon, we secretly imagine taking a vacation from our Christian disciplines. But Paul the farmer steps in and says: “Look, a harvest is coming for those who keep their hands to the plow.” God is mocked when people think that the rules don’t apply to them–when they think they can sow to the flesh and reap from the Spirit. But God is also mocked when Satan tries to discourage Christians by telling them that all of their labor to sow to the Spirit is pointless.
Yet, take heart! God will not be mocked. At the Last Day, Satan’s deceptions will prove to be paper tigers, hollow threats that will melt away like morning dew before the sun.
Are you tempted to feel discouraged with your spiritual disciplines? Are you tempted to weariness in your family devotions? Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. That seed of the Spirit that you faithfully have been sowing will blossom into a harvest of righteousness in due season. Don’t give up! Don’t yank up the sapling of what will one day be an oak tree because you are frustrated with how long it is taking.
The weed of the flesh may grow fast, but it yields rotten fruit. The plant of the Spirit may grow so slow that you are tempted to weariness, but it will yield the shining fruit of righteousness in season. Be encouraged, dear Christian, God is not mocked. You will reap what you sow.