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God is Not Mocked: The Principle of Sowing and Reaping
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
What exactly does it mean to mock God?
The Greek word used here in this verse is,
mukterizo (mook-tay-rid’-zo) specifically having to do with the nostrils,
to turn up the nose or sneer at, to mock
Merriam-Webster defines the word,
to treat with contempt or ridicule
to jeer or scoff at
to defy or challenge
Mockery always finds its source in an attitude of pride. To have an upturned nose, and to look down upon someone or something. There are several occasions in the Old Testament where God responds to this kind of prideful mockery.
Zephaniah 2:8-10 (God pronounces judgment on Moab and Ammon)
“I have heard the reproach of Moab and the insults of the Ammonites, who have taunted My people and threatened their borders.
Therefore, as surely as I live,” declares the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, “surely Moab will be like Sodom and the Ammonites like Gomorrah—a place of weeds and salt pits, a perpetual wasteland. The remnant of My people will plunder them; the remainder of My nation will dispossess them. This they shall have in return for their pride, for taunting and mocking the people of the LORD of Hosts.”
2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (The Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar)
Again and again the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to His people through His messengers because He had compassion on them and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD against His people was stirred up beyond remedy.
Notice how verse 16 says, “despising His words.”
To mock God does not always mean blatantly ridiculing His divine character or Holy name.
More often, it has to do with making a mockery of His statutes and principles by disregarding His wisdom and instructions and thereby showing contempt for His Word. Whenever we turn our nose up and scoff at God’s Word, or when we attempt to oppose and defy His will, we are in essence mocking His very nature.
We are assuming that we’re able to establish our own kingdom, to pursue our own endeavors by whatever means we deem necessary, and without all the hoopla of having to adhere to some rigorous moral standards.
The Word of God makes clear that we are to exemplify His goodness in all that we do, so that it may go well with us and that we may prosper. There is an established paradigm.
However, if I am able to achieve my own success by way of selfish shortcuts and treacherous dealings, then I didn’t have to bother myself with some ‘divine dictator’ or ‘religious rulebook.’
If such were possible, then I will have made a mockery of God’s Word.
He says in His Word, “it must be done this way,” but I do it my own way instead.
For instance, let’s say that I’m a hotshot business investor, and with the goal of growing my own company name, I’ve seen fit to lie and cheat and backstab, in order to come out ahead of the competition and acquire the most profit. By all outward observation, it would appear as though I’ve prospered. That my selfish ambition and greed has paid off. I will have managed to achieve personal success and accomplish my goal, even if it were at the expense of others. After all, what’s that to me, now that I’ve gotten what I wanted all along?
My way has paid off in the end right? No.
Let’s go back to Galatians 6:7
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Here, Paul writes of a divine principle that is universal and unchanging. This truth is communicated by using an agricultural understanding of sowing and reaping. Whatever type of seed a person chooses to plant, this is the same type of crop they can expect to harvest. One should not plant vineyards of tomatoes and expect to harvest bushels of strawberries instead.
You may be sure of this, that whatever is sown and cultivated, this is what shall be reaped.
Keep in mind that this analogy was given in a time well before the conveniences of grocery stores and fast food shops. There weren’t options on every corner. This is also why seasons of rain and harvest times were so important. The simple fact was that whatever you reap is what you will have to eat.
This Scripture begins with a warning, “Do not be deceived.” Obviously, this implies the potential of falling into deception and error. How might one become deceived in this? The answer is found in the latter half of the verse, which gives the example of sowing and reaping. In the process of agriculture, the cause and the effect are not immediately evident. There is always a lapse in time between the sowing and the reaping. Between that which is buried beneath the soil, and that which manifests to the surface.
A person might be able to fool themselves for a time, into believing that sowing seeds of selfishness and unrighteousness will yield more benefit than sowing seeds of sacrifice and servitude for the sake of God’s will.
But this is not so. As we see in the following verse,
For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.
The Greek word used here for ‘corruption’ conveys the process of decomposition which takes place in death. Paul is saying that the one who sows in order to satisfy their flesh, will from the flesh reap the corruption or decay of death. It is fleeting and empty. Worthless.
On the other hand, the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap life which is everlasting. It is eternal. Priceless.
Therefore, sowing is very similar to investing. Whenever someone chooses to make an investment, the wise decision is to invest in something which appreciates in value, rather than depreciates.
Sowing to the flesh is investing into that which is and perishable and passing away. There is no lasting substance.
The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness will reap a sure reward.
Notice the stark contrast.
The Hebrew word used for deceptive is
sheqer (sheh’-ker) deceitful, falsehood, fraudulent
that which deceives, disappoints, or betrays
The wages of sin are deceitful and fraudulent. Although they typically provide a measure of instant gratification, they will inevitably disappoint and betray the one who trusts in them. They promise, but cannot deliver. In the end, they always take more than they ever give.
Whereas, the one who sows in righteousness will reap a sure reward. It is certain, guaranteed.
These men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of all who are greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Notice that those who are plotting an ambush for the lives of the righteous, actually end up losing their own blood.
See, you assume you have succeeded in taking something, that it has added to you, when the truth is, it has actually robbed you. It is not gain but loss.
Judas Iscariot thought he was making a good investment when he betrayed Jesus for the thirty pieces of silver. Yet, once he realized the worthlessness of those coins in light of the sin he had just committed, he attempted to return the silver and then went and hung himself.
A life is built in the same way a building is constructed.
One brick at a time.
Throughout our lives, we make choices one situation at a time, moment by moment.
And with each of these momentary decisions, we set in place another brick.
Therefore, the kind of life and character that is built from our decision-making depends upon the countless individual choices that went into its construction. In essence, we are the culmination of our choices.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
There’s a similar idea put forth from American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
We have this concept where we’re constantly distinguishing the ‘big things’ from the ‘little things.’
But the truth is, the big things are made up of the little things. It is by remaining consistent and faithful in the small matters, that we are preparing ourselves for the larger matters.
While it’s certainly true that some decisions have more significant ramifications than others, the focus of attention should not be so much on the decision, but on the decider.
If we are to get to the source, we must first identify the character.
Jesus Himself says,
“Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
It’s about integrity and consistency.
As it’s written in 2 Corinthians 5:17- If you are in Christ, then you are a new creation, the old things have passed away. He has now placed His Spirit within you and He has given you a new nature.
Scripture teaches us that righteousness is something we practice, something we exercise. It must be expressed. There’s a phrase in martial arts, “You become how you train.”
Whatever individual circumstances may arise, these are simply opportunities which allow for the expression of whatever the inner nature consists of.
1 John 2:29
If you know that He is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.
1 John 3:7
Little children, let no one lead you astray; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
According to the spiritual, what you sow, you also reap. And what you reap, you must eat.
Therefore, you inevitably become synonymous to that which you cultivate and produce.
Now do you begin to see how sowing to the Spirit produces life, while sowing to the flesh produces death?
But what exactly does this mean, sowing to the Spirit?
Simply put, it means investing yourself in the things of God, which are Spiritual rather than carnal.
John 4:23-24 Jesus says,
”But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Notice how the Lord specifically says that the flesh profits nothing.
Earlier we mentioned the analogy of investing. A wise man does not continue to invest into that which is worthless.
To sow to the Spirit means to walk by the Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (One step at a time)
The phrase, “keep in step” is an idiom which means to pattern or conform yourself to the rhythm or behavior of someone or something else.
The Greek word used here is stoicheo (stoy-keh’-o)
meaning to follow after, walk in order
military terminology: to proceed in a row as in the march of a soldier
As believers, we are not to keep in step, or be conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).
Instead, we are to keep in step, or be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Whatever you cultivate, that is what flourishes. To sow to the flesh speaks of continually gratifying the carnal, sinful nature. It’s like the old Native American proverb, where the grandfather explains to his grandson how there are two wolves at war within each of us. One wolf represents evil, anger, envy, greed, and falsehood.
The other wolf represents goodness, love, joy, peace, kindness, and honesty.
When the boy asks which of the two wolves wins, the grandfather replies, “The one that you feed.”
Which wolf are you feeding? Which type of seed are you sowing and cultivating?
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
You cannot choose to sow to the flesh time and time again, day after day, and then find it a strange thing to reap a harvest of corruption in your life.
Paul goes on to give examples of what comes from the flesh as opposed to what comes from the Spirit.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I have before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Sowing to the Spirit means abiding in Christ and in His Word.
Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
John 15:1-2, 5
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
“I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.”
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”
These Spiritual fruits will be evident in the lives of those who walk by the Spirit, who are abiding in the true vine of Christ Jesus. Notice how the Lord said, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The fruit of the Spirit does not originate within ourselves, but comes through Christ, the vine in whom we are rooted.
The fruit which comes forth bears witness to the inward nature.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her actions.”
to provide justification or defense for
to confirm, to substantiate
In other words, wisdom is proven by what it produces.
Each new day, we encounter hundreds of opportunities to sow seed in either one field or the other.
With every moment, every choice, every action, we are sowing to either the flesh or to the Spirit.
While this concept may seem overwhelming, the truth is, there’s actually a beautiful simplicity and peace which comes in the ability to render down each situation, each predicament, regardless of its size, and to see through the haze of confusion, to part the waters of distraction so to speak, and ask yourself, ‘What is my ultimate intention here? My motivation? Will this bring life or death? Righteousness or wickedness? Which wolf will this feed?’
And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not give up.
Here is that lapse in time again, the time between the sowing and the reaping, between the planting and the harvesting. Paul gives us an absolute, a guarantee: “In due season we shall reap, IF we do not give up.”
In due season, or at the appropriate time.
Every farmer must learn this kind of patience. They do not immediately expect to see the harvest of what they’ve sown. They understand there is a process which takes time.
Herein lies the importance of not losing heart. The phrase used here for “lose heart” is translated from the Greek word ekkakeo (ek-kak-eh’-o) which means ‘to be utterly spiritless’, ‘to be wearied out’, or ‘exhausted.’
The implication is to fail in heart.
This type of discouragement can be used to describe the weariness a woman experiences during childbirth. Before the delivery, the labor is exhausting work, both difficult and painful. Just when it seems to be unrewarded and all for naught, that’s when the baby comes forth.
2 Thessalonians 3:13
But as for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
We are given encouragements against both of these
Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.
He who goes out weeping, bearing seed for sowing, will surely return with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
This is to illustrate the point that although there will be seasons of struggle and of difficulty, we are to remain faithful in our sowing, so that when the time for harvest comes, we may be able to reap that which we’ve sown with joy and gladness.
Despite experiencing times of trial and hardship, let us not become discouraged and lose sight of our hope.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon comments of this verse:
“They who sow unto the spirit sow in tears, for sowing unto the spirit involves self-denial, struggling against the flesh, running counter to the instincts of our fallen nature. To sow unto the spirit, is to sow in the field of obedience and patient endurance.
While for now, our tears may fall with the precious seed, our momentary weeping is scarcely to be thought of in comparison with the sheaves of exceeding glory in the land where tears are divinely and finally wiped from every eye.”
Here in these few verses from Galatians, we are given three primary encouragements: “Do not be deceived,” “do not lose heart,” and “do not grow weary.”
As believers, there are certainly times when we labor in doing good, but seem to see no real fruit. We pray, we witness, we give, we serve, but nothing outwardly appears to be producing any results.
This is why we must not judge based upon appearances.
As our Lord instructed,
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
We walk by faith not by sight. Whenever a seed is planted into the ground, it’s buried beneath the soil, out of sight. By all outward observation, it’s gone. But the truth is, although it is no longer visible, it’s still there and it is going to work, beginning to sprout and spread its roots.
Faith is trusting this process of growth even though we cannot see the results at the moment.
Although we may not fully understand the intricacies of its inner workings, we can still be sure that it is indeed at work.