Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 1Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.Galatians 6:7-10
If we read this wrong it can sound like it is opposed to grace and forgiveness. This is because we read this outside of the context of an agrarian society. Everyone listening to these words in the first century understood farming and just how long it took plants to grow. The time between sowing and reaping was many months.
So we need to not have a “slot machine” mindset when reading this truth about sowing and reaping. It’s not true that you immediately get back what you give out. That’s slot machine mentality. Farming is a gradual, continual process. Paul is saying what you pour yourself into is what you’ll become.
In our culture we might better understand investment language. If you spend your life using your retirement to gamble in Vegas, don’t be surprised when you get to the end of your life broke. If you make good investments, you’ll reap a good reward. And your own pleasure and comfort is not a good investment.
If we live life to please ourselves, we’ll find our lives broken at every turn. If we live life to please the Holy Spirit, over time, “if we do not give up,” we’ll step back and discover a life that is more full than we could ever have imagined.
So were does grace, mercy and forgiveness come in?
Think about farming. Forgiveness is all those moments between planting and harvesting where weeds are recognized and pulled up. Mercy is when a farmer puts a wire fence around the veggies so that the plants are protected from the opportunistic animals. Grace is the sunshine in the morning and the rain in season. Grace is the dark rich soil loaded with nutrients. Farming isn’t about planting the perfect seed and then doing nothing until harvest. Farming is an ongoing process of cultivation, just like discipleship and sanctification.
But make no mistake, what we originally plant makes all the difference in the world. If we find we’ve planted something of the flesh in one part of our life, we can always turn the soil over and plant something new. It’s never too late to plant seeds of the Spirit no matter how late in the season it is. No matter how much damage has been caused by the locusts we’ve allowed in our lives, Jesus can restore the land. The Lord says:
Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.
The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
I will repay you (make up) for the years the locusts have eaten…Joel 2:23-25