“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”

So wrote the apostle Paul (Gal 6:7). In this day and age, it is easy to lose the significance of these words which we know so well. Modern life has removed the majority of us from the agricultural life which illustrates this principle very clearly. And yet there are many wonderful ex­hortations which we can draw from the above words, because they apply to spiritual things as much as to the natural things borne out in traditional farming life.

A farmer’s success in his labours is dependent upon sowing good seed under the right conditions and in the right season in order to obtain a good crop. Although most of us are not farmers in the traditional sense and are not as dependent on the yearly cycles which occur during this process, most of us have some experience of sowing and reaping both in a natural and spiritual sense which bears out the truth of these words. We all reap the effects of our previous thoughts, words and deeds. They are all like seeds, planted for a future harvest, either for good or for evil. The following quotations bear this out:

  •  “A froward man soweth strife” (Prov 16:28)
  •   God hates those who “sow discord” (Prov 6:14,19)
  •  “To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward” (Prov 11:18)
  •  “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:18).

Let us examine ourselves in the light of these principles and ask ourselves—what have we been sowing recently? What are the long term fruits of our actions? Will the harvest be righteousness and joy, or iniquity and misery? Remember, we are all sowers and will all reap a spiritual harvest, either life eternal or rejection and death. Let us therefore consider some of the principles which apply to sowing and reaping which are of importance to us all in our race for the Kingdom of God.

The Laws of the Harvest

  1.  We reap the same kind of seed as we sow
  2.  We reap in proportion as we sow
  3.  We reap much more than we sow
  4.  We reap in a different season than we sow
  5.  We reap the harvest of good only if we continue to labour until the end
  6.  We reap a good harvest only in the goodness and providence of God
  7.  We cannot change last year’s harvest, but we can do something to improve this year’s.

1—The Law of Kinds

We reap the same kind of seed as we sow

It is a fundamental law of nature since creation (Gen 1:11,12) that seed reproduces after its own kind. Thus Paul warned, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal 6:8). If we allow fleshly thoughts to conceive and take root in our minds, evil words and deeds will surely follow. These have but one end, as James tells us, “when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (1:15).

And yet Paul prefaced his words in Galatians 6 with the warning, “Be not deceived”. The implica­tion is that it is easy to deceive ourselves in this matter. Paul follows his warning with the following words, “God is not mocked”. If we think we can sow a little bit of evil in our lives and reap a good harvest of life everlasting, we are in danger of treating God with contempt. Consider the principle laid down in the Law of Moses (Deut 22:9). “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.” Let us not sow mixed seeds in our lives—we cannot possibly achieve the fruit we desire with this attitude. Rather we should follow Paul’s advice, “He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal 6:8). We can sow to the Spirit by allowing the good seed of the Word to take root in our minds, bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23).

2—The Law of Proportion

We reap in proportion to what we sow

In the natural sense, the greater the area a farmer sows, the more he will expect to reap. If a farmer had available a large tract of land to sow with seed, and availed himself of the opportunity to sow only 10% of the land to crop, we would think him very foolish, particularly if he complained about the meagre results of his efforts. What a waste of op­portunity! Yet we can be guilty of the very same thing in spiritual matters.

Paul outlines this principle in relation to the magnitude of our sacrifice in the truth. “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bounti­fully” (2 Cor 9:6,7). How do these words touch our service to God? Are we cheerful givers to God? Do we impose limits on what we are prepared to do, carefully reserving the rest of our time and energy for our own pursuits? Take, for example, the preach­ing of the Truth. Do we sow sparingly, and then simply blame lack of response on the fact that we live in the days of Noah? Jesus saw the fields “white already to harvest” (John 4:35)—let us be willing labourers to avail ourselves of the opportunities which are before us in this field.

The Parable of the Talents explains that there are different rewards for different degrees of service, but all are proportional to the opportunity which has been given to each individual to labour for God (Matt 25:14–30). We will be required to answer for the opportunity given to each one of us as individu­als. Let us each use our talents in fullest measure in the service of our God—“pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38), and we will reap bountifully.

3—The Law of Increase

We reap much more than we sow

From each new grain planted in the soil springs an entirely new plant. Each plant which grows will produce many new seeds—as the parable says, “some thirty, some sixty and some an hundred fold”. A bountiful harvest comes from a small beginning. Once again, on the spiritual plane, the principle holds true both in a good and a bad sense.

In Matthew 25 Christ spoke a parable concern­ing the judgment seat and the fate of the righteous and the unrighteous. In detailing the reward given to the righteous, it is evident that the righteous con­sider their “good works” to have been very small in scale (v34–40). The righteous exclaim, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?” Small deeds, yes, but of great pleasure to our Father in heaven. Paul powerfully shows that our “light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17). By contrast, Hosea warned that those who “sow the wind” shall “reap the whirlwind” (8:7). The magnitude of tor­ment for the rejected will be very great—think of the small sacrifices needed for those people to reap a future harvest of eternal life instead. Small deeds, both good and bad, have powerful and everlasting outworkings in our lives.

The arena of raising children brings much food for thought in relation to this principle. Solomon encourages us to apply ourselves in a child’s early years to diligent training, teaching and guidance in right ways, so that “when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). Thus will our families grow up about us—“Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table” (Psalm 128:3). Our diligent efforts in the small matters of life when children are young will, with God’s blessing, bring the future harvest of a happy and God fearing home and many years of lasting satisfaction.

What, however, is the result of a little “sowing to the flesh” during a child’s formative years—a little indulgence or lack of discipline, a little tasting of the world’s pleasures? From such small lapses of parental attention may spring a lifetime of sorrow and regret, of heartsearching over poor decisions made, and fear for the child’s eternal well being. Solomon gives many warnings in the Proverbs regarding the pain suffered by both the mother and the father of a foolish child. Such results do not usually come about suddenly or unexpectedly, but are oftentimes the result of inadequate training in a child’s earlier years.

The principle holds true on the larger scale of the ecclesial family. A “word in season” which wins back a brother or sister, or a “soft answer” which turns away wrath, are examples of small deeds which may result in great blessings to an ecclesia. By contrast, a few careless or foolish words can turn away a brother or sister, and “a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city” (Prov 18:19). Much strife may spring from a “root of bitterness” which troubles an ecclesia.

4—The Law of Delayed Returns

We reap in a different season than we sow

In the natural arena, a period of time must elapse before seed planted in the ground comes to maturity as a crop. Different crops require different periods of time to reach maturity—some may mature in three or four months, whilst others may take many years. This is true in a spiritual sense also. Some seeds sown in our lives bear fruit quickly in this life, whilst others only in the Kingdom.

James used the illustration of the husbandman to teach the necessity for patience whilst waiting for the harvest. “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient…” (5:7,8). Oftentimes we expect immediate rewards for our deeds, and forget that God’s timescale is different to ours. He has the ages of eternity to achieve His purpose, but He will perform what He has promised at the appointed time. Like the farmer, we must be prepared to wait patiently for the promised reward.

We need also to learn to have patience with each other—with our brethren and sisters and with our children. Spiritual fruit develops slowly. Much of the development is on the inside, unseen until it bears fruit in later actions. We can do much to assist others in our meeting who are also sowing now for future harvest. Our young people need to be sowing seeds of sound doctrine and spiritual development which will assist them to make wise choices in their adult lives—choices which affect future marriage partners, and children yet to be born, and which will impact on the future spiritual strength of the ecclesia to which they belong. Early development of good habits may seem a small matter now, but will have huge consequences as life continues on.

But there is also a negative exhortation in this principle concerning the inevitability of the future return upon our labours. As we saw in the example of raising children, a future return inevitably awaits our labour, long-distant as it may seem to our lim­ited vision at any one time. Solomon warned, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth…” (Prov 24:33,34). The lesson is clear—we will definitely reap as we sow in this life, even if we do not perceive this to be the case now. A time will arrive when our harvest is ripe, and if we have sown folly, then we will reap misery and rejection at the judgment seat. If we have “sown” indulgence and pleasureseeking in our family, the time will come when our children bring forth the fruits of our labours. Human weakness can cause us to lose sight of the future vision when we are sowing in the small things of this present life.

Paul exhorts us “not to be weary in well-doing” (Gal 6:9). Let us sow in patience day by day, so that we may bring forth spiritual fruit to perfection.

5—The Law of Labour

We reap the harvest of good only if we continue to labour until the end

A farmer desiring a bountiful harvest cannot simply cast forth his seed and then fold his arms in slumber. He must work in the sweat of his brow to prepare the soil, remove the weeds and keep animals and birds away from his crop before he can expect to reap a harvest. He can only rejoice at the bounty of his harvest when the crop has been brought in.

Paul commented on this principle to Timothy when he wrote that the husbandman must labour first before he is a partaker of the fruits (2 Tim 2:6 margin). If, however, the farmer gives up before the end, he will not have a good harvest. So it is in the spiritual sense. Those who labour to produce spiritual fruit will never reap a harvest if they tire of their labours and cease to work (Ezek 18:24). The spiritually discerning realise that continual labour is necessary to achieve future joy. The slothful person, by contrast, may make a start but never brings forth fruit to perfection. Solomon observed this: “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down” (Prov 24:30,31). A beginning was made, but there was not sufficient spiritual vision to sustain the labour required to achieve the end product.

Let us take consolation from the fact that there is no labour too hard nor any sacrifice which is too great for the promise of eternal life. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5). Our present travail will appear insignificant in the day of glory which will bring us the harvest we have been waiting for.

Let us continue our labours “breaking up the fallow ground” and removing all bad habits and worldly interests which impede our progress. The earlier this is done, the more fruitful our harvest will be.

6—The Law of Providence

We reap a good harvest only in the goodness and providence of God

The farmer sows in faith, knowing that many fac­tors which affect the quantity and quality of his crop are outside of his direct control. Frost, hail, disease, insect plagues, fire, flood and wind can all make their presence felt and destroy a crop in a short time. Despite the risks, the farmer puts in the work in the hope that his labours will reap a future reward.

“He that observeth the wind shall not sow” (Ec­cles 11:4), “therefore shall he beg in harvest” (Prov 20:4). We cannot be guaranteed perfect conditions for our labours, nor that providence will ensure that no trials or tribulations will come our way. Those who put their trust in the Almighty will go forth in faith and sow, ignoring the difficulties and overcoming trials, so that they may reap in the age to come. But above all, like the faithful Israelitish farmer of old, we must pray for God’s blessing on the work, as it is His work. Paul, in commenting on the law which forbad the muzzling of an ox treading out the corn, said that the law was written for our sakes, “that he that ploweth should plow in hope” (1 Cor 9:10). God understands the difficulties of our labours and does not desire that the way should be too difficult for us. We labour, but it is God Who gives the increase to our work (1 Cor 3:6,7).

Let us trust in our Almighty God, for whom the whole process of sowing and labouring is un­dertaken, that we might bring forth fruit unto Him.

7—The Law of Opportunity

We cannot change last year’s harvest, but we can do something to improve this year’s.

Like the farmer, we can learn from the mistakes of the past and determine to do better in the futureto sow more generously, to prepare the ground more diligently, to weed more often, and to worry less about factors outside of our control. Instead, we should pray to our God, Who is in control, and seek His blessing on all our labours. He will mould us, and through His providential hand, fit us for His Kingdom if we learn from our previous endeavours.

We cannot change the past. If we have sown foolishly or wasted previous opportunities, we cannot undo our previous actions, nor the results which spring from them. But we can determine to forsake our previous ways and submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We can take courage from the example of the apostle Paul, who was once counted amongst those who persecuted Christ. Paul turned his energies towards serving God with the same zeal with which he opposed Him in previous times: “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13,14).

Let us never forget the perfect sower who la­boured on earth before us to show us the character of his Father, who brought forth fruit an hundred-fold in his life. As the firstborn from the dead, his labours will yet see the great harvest of the redeemed, all of whom have followed his example, sowing the Word of God in their minds, and good deeds amongst their fellows. Let us pray that our labours will bring us the desired end of being united with him forever.