“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” Galatians 6:7 NRSV
The evidence is all around us these days: bare tobacco stalks, the remnant chaff of a corn field, perhaps a few sweet potatoes which have tumbled to the roadside. We are in a season of harvest! Everything for which our local farmers have invested is coming to fruition. The long days, sleepless nights, expenditures, and, let’s not forget, many prayers are paying off. I have always viewed the farming profession as a labor of love with great risk involved from one growing season to the next. Weather conditions, equipment maintenance, personnel matters, and many other concerns weigh heavily upon his or her mind. One growing season may turn out glorious while the next is plagued with flooding or drought. The markets fluctuate continuously and place the farmer into an unsettling predicament of storing versus selling. The farmer puts his or her heart, mind, and soul into everything, taking a gamble, and hoping a tiny seed will fulfill its potential. It is indeed a tough life, but we are grateful for the contributions of these men and women.
When we read Scripture, we find scattered references throughout which allude to planting seeds, being nurtured as plants/trees, and producing bountiful fruit. It is captivating and relatable imagery of what it means to be in a relationship with God. The Apostle Paul understood and appreciated the process of sowing and reaping, and used it as a metaphor for what was taking place within the Galatian believers. The first ten verses of Galatians 6 relate to the Christian life and proper conduct within the faith community. The opening portion of this section focuses upon a variety of issues including treatment of those who fall into sin, shouldering life’s burdens with others, and avoiding personal pride in the midst of hard work. Verses 7-10 shift away from this series of instructions and into a metaphor of sowing and reaping related to decisions, actions, and outcomes.
You and I don’t have to be experts in all things agriculture to resonate with Paul’s words to the Galatians. We have all most likely planted seeds or transplanted something from a container into the ground. When we purchase those seeds or tiny plants, we do so with hope because we know that each possesses potential to be something more. We don’t expect them to remain in their state at the moment of planting, but wish to see growth, maturity, and eventually flowers, fruit, or vegetables. At the same time, we do expect a certain outcome based on the type of seed or plant which enters the ground. For example, if we set out tomato plants, we don’t want to see cucumbers. If we plant a rosebush, we shouldn’t end up with daisies. Whatever we begin with will determine the outcome of that seed or plant in its mature state.
Paul connects this same idea to the types of seed we sow in life and the outcomes we experience over time. Such seed doesn’t come in packets from the local hardware store or nursery, but rather through what we do in life. This includes our words, how we treat others, decisions we make (often abruptly), associations with certain people, and the list goes on. If we plant a literal seed, the good news is we can dig it up. If we don’t like the location of a certain plant, we can relocate it. Unfortunately, the seeds we sow with our lives are much more difficult to uproot. We can’t retract a spoken word. We can’t undo a poor decision. We can be careful with the company we keep. We can think things through before acting out. However, we are all too guilty of doing something in the moment. As Paul says in Galatians 6:8, whatever we sow to will determine where we end up and the consequences for good or ill with which we will have to deal.
So, I pose the question, “What kind of harvest are we desiring?” I suppose all of us would say the fruit of the Spirit which Paul highlights in Galatians 5:22-23. While this may be an honest desire which we possess, are we doing what is necessary to reach such an outcome? Are we sowing seeds which produce virtues such as love, joy, peace, etc.? You and I can’t sow hate and expect to receive God’s love. We can’t sow discord and experience unity within the church. The verse I shared at the beginning of this article states “We shouldn’t fool ourselves because God can’t be negotiated with” (my paraphrase). We can’t do as we so choose in life and expect God to give us better outcomes. If we are sowing the wrong things, God won’t be toyed with in order to “change the harvest.” Whatever comes at harvest time will be as a result of our planting process. We can’t blame someone else, or even God, for sabotaging our “crop.” WE reap what WE sow! It is pure, simple, and honest as that.
In recent weeks, I have been following the Wilson County Corn Yield Contest through Facebook and it has been amazing to see the bushels per acre some farms have produced. Granted, there are many things which go into the competition (different seed types, irrigation systems, etc.) but the results are still impressive. Those farmers who experience such great numbers have clearly done their homework and, through trial and error, have learned much about what makes for a successful field of corn. The same can be said for our lives. It is not easy to produce good fruit and, if we try on our own, we are doomed to failure. However, with the nurturing presence of God’s Spirit within, we receive the nourishment and care needed to reap a successful harvest. The key is to start our process with good seed.
Together in the Harvest,
The Reverend Kelley Smart