"Be Not Deceived. . . ."
A fundamental principle of all husbandry is "like begets like." In agriculture that means if I plant corn seed -- and the attendant requirements of soil, moisture, and sunshine are met -- then corn will be the harvest. True, weeds may grow with the corn, but they spring from their own seeds and are not the result of my original sowing. If I desire red wheat, green beans, or yellow squash, then I must sow their seeds as well. It would be a naive farmer indeed who said, "I guess I'll plant those leftover oats because that's the only seed I have, but I sure hope peas come up instead."
By inspiration the apostle Paul uses this axiom of agriculture to teach an enduring lesson in Galatians 6:7: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Just as surely as the farmer plants one kind of seed in the spring and harvests the same same type of fruit in the summer, so shall man gather what he has sown.
"Be not deceived. . . ." Here Paul warns that we should not be misled. Usually we think of others leading us astray, but the idea here is that we may delude ourselves. The most convincing lie may not be the one the false teacher tells us but, rather, the one we tell ourselves. Unless we are careful, we can be trapped by our own wrong thinking.
". . . God is not mocked. . . ." According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the meaning is ". . . to turn up the nose at, sneer at, treat with contempt. . . ." Our Creator will not be treated with contempt. Man will not be able to trick or deceive God concerning the kind of life he leads. I will not be able to hide the pattern of my life from His all-seeing eye.
". . . for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. . . ." The fruit which I reap will be consistent with the seed I have sown. I cannot live my life one way and expect to receive a different kind of reward. I cannot walk this earth the way I please and expect God to be pleased in the end. If I imagine that I can, then I dupe myself and scoff at Jehovah in the process!
Verse 8 completes the thought: "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Notice that Paul describes only two kinds of sowing. Just as the Bible speaks of the prepared and the unprepared, the wise and the foolish, the obedient and the disobedient, so it speaks of the spiritually-minded and the worldly-minded. Those who sow to the flesh will reap everlasting destruction; those who sow to the spirit will reap eternal glory.
What applications can we make from Paul's warning? First, let us consider the immediate context in the Galatian letter. In v. 6 we read, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." While there is some disagreement about the specific meaning of this verse, the general thought is apparent. Vine's explains that communicate means "to give a share to, to go shares with," so the idea is that the one who is taught should share all good things with the teacher. Lipscomb, in his commentary on Galatians, states it well: "In all these, whether money, or food, or clothing, and such necessary things, the taught are to communicate with faithful teachers, share with them, and share with their reward," (Lipscomb, David. A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles: Second Corinthians and Galatians. Edited, with additional notes, by J.W. Shepherd. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1976, p. 279).
The same point is made in I Corinthians 9:11 as Paul explains the right of those who preach the gospel to receive material support in that endeavor: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?"
Again, Romans 15:27 explains the responsibility the Gentiles had toward the Jewish brethren who had labored to bring them the gospel: "It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things."
Thus, in the immediate context of vv. 6-8, one practical way that we sow to the spirit is by proper use of our possessions. The one who hoards his wealth to spend on his own worldly appetite is sowing to the flesh. Here is one point where I can measure myself. Am I using my possessions to glorify God or to gratify the flesh? 2 Corinthians 9:6 reminds us, ". . . He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." What does the amount of my sowing say about the size of crop I am expecting?
Galatians 6:7 is also an implicit warning that I must watch the kind of seed I am sowing and remember that I am continually sowing!
I can only lead one of two kinds of life: either I walk after the flesh or after the spirit (Romans 8:1). My conduct reflects one kind of life or the other. There is no middle ground where I can say, "Today I'm not planting any seed. The farmer takes a holiday."
Nor can I imagine that there is a neutral kind of seed. The man who says, "The seed I'm sowing is neither worldly nor spiritual" deceives himself. I am continually sowing one kind of seed or the other and the harvest is surely coming!
An Old Testament example of the Galatians 6:7 principle is found in Hosea 8:7. The rising immorality and idolatry of the Israelites threatened to separate them from God, yet they failed to reckon with the consequences of their actions. God's sentence was thus: "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. . . ." By abandoning God, they incurred the wrath and punishment of God. Their continued violation of His law brought inevitable consequences.
So it is with us. Do we imagine that we can live our life to the devil today and reap heaven tomorrow? Can we sow to the flesh now and reap the spiritual reward hereafter? Are we blind to the kind of life God requires on this earth in order to glory in His eternal presence?
"Do not be deceived. . . ." Galatians 6:7 warns us. The wise man remembers.
By John N. Evans
From Expository Files 4.7; July 1997