A Commentary by John Stott
Galatians 6:6-10. Sowing and reaping.
The apostle Paul is nearing the end of his letter. His main themes have by now been expounded. All he has left are a few final admonitions. At first sight, these instructions and exhortations appear to be very loosely connected, even totally disconnected. But a closer look at them reveals the connecting link. It is the great principle of sowing and reaping. This is stated in epigrammatic form in verse 7: *Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap*. This is a principle of order and consistency which is written into all life, material and moral.
Take agriculture, God promised Noah after the flood that, so long as the earth remained, ‘seedtime and harvest’, that is, sowing and reaping, would not cease (Gn. 8:22). If a farmer wants a harvest, he must sow his seed in his field; otherwise, there will be no harvest. Moreover, the kind of harvest he will get is determined in advance by the kind of seed he sows. This is true of its nature, its quality and its quantity. If he sows barley seed he will get a barley crop; if he sows wheat seed he will get a wheat crop. Similarly, good seed will produce a good crop, and bad seed a bad crop. Again, if he sows plentifully, he can expect a plentiful harvest, but if he sows sparingly, then he will reap sparingly as well (cf. 2 Cor.9:6). Putting the three together, we may say that if the farmer wants a bumper harvest of a particular corn, then he must not only sow the right seed, but good seed and that plentifully. Only if he does this can he expect a good crop.
Precisely the same principle operates in the moral and spiritual sphere. *Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap*. It is not the reapers who decide what the harvest is going to be like, but the sowers. If a man is faithful and conscientious in his sowing, then he can confidently expect a good harvest. If he ‘sows wild oats’, as we sometimes say, then he must not expect to reap strawberries! On the contrary, ‘those who plough iniquity and sow trouble reap the same’ (Jb. 4:8). Or, as Hosea warned his contemporaries (8:7), ‘they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind’ (sc. of divine judgment).
This principle is an immutable law of God. In order to emphasize it, the apostle prefaces it with both a command (‘do not be deceived’) and a statement (‘God is not mocked’).
The possibility of being deceived is mentioned several times in the New Testament. Jesus said that the devil was a liar and the father of lies, and He cautioned His disciples against being led astray (Jn.8:44; Mk.13:5, 6, 22). John warns us in his Second Epistle that ‘many deceivers have gone out into the world’ (2 Jn.7 cf. 1 Jn.2:18-27; 4:1-6). Paul begs us in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘Let no one deceive you with empty words.’ (Eph. 5:6; cf. 1 Cor.6:9; 2 Thess.2:3). Already in Galatians he has asked ‘who has bewitched’ his readers (3:1) and spoken of the person who ‘deceives himself’ (6:3).
Many people are deceived concerning this inexorable law of seedtime and harvest. They sow their seeds thoughtlessly, nonchalantly, and blind themselves to the fact that the seeds they sow will inevitably produce a corresponding harvest. Or they sow seed of one kind and expect to reap a harvest of another. They imagine that somehow they can get away with it. But this is impossible. So Paul adds: *God is not mocked*. The Greek verb here (*mukterizo*) is striking. It is derived from the word for a nose and means literally to ‘turn up the nose at’ somebody and so to ‘sneer at’ or ‘treat with contempt’. From this it can signify to ‘fool’ (NEB) or to ‘outwit’ (Arndt-Gingrich). What the apostle is saying is that men may fool themselves, but they cannot fool God. They may think that they can escape this law of seedtime and harvest, but they cannot. They may go on sowing their seeds and closing their eyes to the consequences, but one day God Himself will bring in the harvest.
From the principle we turn to the application. There are three spheres of Christian experience in which Paul sees the principle operating.
Tomorrow: Galatians 6:6. 1). Christian ministry.