Reaping What We Sow

Published by DonDavidson on

Has someone ever beaten you up—metaphorically—over the sin in your life by quoting Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap”?[1]

Did you know that Galatians 6:7 is not actually talking about sin?

Paul liked the metaphor of sowing and reaping so much that he used it in three of his letters—Galatians, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians.[2] But in each case, he is not talking about sin, but about generosity.

In Galatians chapter 6—the context of Galatians 6:7, above—he is making the point that those who teach and preach about the Good News should be supported by those who are taught. Thus, in Galatians 6:6—the verse immediately preceding Galatians 6:7—he says: “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” In context, Paul is telling his readers they should give money to those who are promoting the Gospel, rather than just spending money on themselves.

Similarly, in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul is defending his right to be supported by the churches he has planted. Thus, he asks rhetorically, “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit?”[3] Then he invokes the metaphor of sowing and reaping: “If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?”[4] Here again, he is saying that those who teach the Gospel have a right to be supported by those who are taught, and those who are taught have a duty to support those who teach them.

Finally, in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul is writing to urge the Corinthians to give generously to help the famine-stricken Christians in Judea, as the Corinthians had previously promised to do: “So I considered it necessary to urge the brothers that they go on ahead to you and arrange in advance your previously promised generous gift, that the same would be ready.”[5] And he immediately follows this entreaty with his reaping and sowing metaphor: “Now I say this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows generously will also reap generously.”[6] And lest there be any doubt—in his readers’ minds or in ours—that he is talking about giving, he quickly adds: “Each one must do just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”[7]

So what do we reap when we give generously? Paul gives us a hint in Philippians chapter 4. There he praises the Philippians for their generosity in supporting his ministry when no one else did, and he promises that their generosity will be rewarded:

You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek the profit which increases to your account.[8]

The “profit which increases to your account” is pretty vague, but I believe it refers to spiritual blessings in this life and the next, similar to what Jesus meant when he talked about “treasures in heaven” and the way God would “reward” those who give from pure motives.[9]

Now I’m certainly not saying that Paul doesn’t care about sin. His letter to the Romans makes abundantly clear that he does not want Christians to sin. Nor is “sowing” sin in our lives a good idea. My point is simply that Galatians 6:7 is not about sin, but about giving, and giving generously, to promote Christianity and relieve suffering in this world.

So let us give, and give generously, so that we may reap what we sow.

[1]. Galatians 6:7

[2]. See Galatians 6:7-9, 1 Corinthians 9:11, and 2 Corinthians 9:6.

[3]. 1 Corinthians 9:7

[4]. 1 Corinthians 9:11

[5]. 2 Corinthians 9:5

[6]. 2 Corinthians 9:6

[7]. 2 Corinthians 9:7

[8]. Philippians 4:15-17

[9]. See, for example, Matthew 6:2-4 and Matthew 6:19-21.


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