A Commentary by John Stott
If the principle of the congregation paying the minister may encourage the minister to be lazy and neglectful, it may also tempt the congregation to try to control the minister. Some congregations exercise a positive tyranny over their pastor and almost blackmail him into preaching what they want to hear. They pay the piper, they say; so they must be allowed to call the tune. And if the minister has a wife and family to support, he is tempted to give way. Of course it is wrong for a minister to yield to such pressure, but it is also wrong for a congregation to put him in this predicament. If the minister sows the good seed of God’s Word faithfully, however unpalatable the congregation may find it, he has a right to reap his living. They have no authority to dock his wages because he refuses to dock his words.
The right relationship between teacher and taught, or minister and congregation, is one of *koinonia*, ‘fellowship’ or ‘partnership’. So Paul writes: ‘Let him who is taught the word *share (koinoneito)* all good things with him who teaches.’ He shares spiritual things with them, and they share material things with him. Bishop Stephen Neill comments: ‘This is not to be regarded as a *Payment*. The word “shared” is a rich Christian word, which is used of our *fellowship* in the Holy Spirit.’
2). Christian holiness (verse 8).
*For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life*. This is another sphere in which the ‘seed-time and harvest’ principle operates. Paul moves from the particular to the general, from Christian ministers and their support to Christian people and their moral behaviour. He reverts to the theme of the flesh and the Spirit which he has treated at some length in Galatians 5:16-25. There in Galatians 5 the Christian’s life is likened to a battleground, and the flesh and the Spirit are two combatants at war with each other upon it. But here in Galatians 6 the Christian’s life is likened to a country estate, and the flesh and the Spirit are two fields in which we may sow seed. Further, the harvest we reap depends on *where* and on *what* we sow.
This is a vitally important and much neglected principle of holiness. We are not the helpless victims of our nature, temperament and environment. On the contrary, what we become depends largely on how we behave; our character is shaped by our conduct. According to Galatians 5 the Christian’s duty is to ‘walk by the Spirit’, according to Galatians 6 to ‘sow to the Spirit’. Thus the Holy Spirit is likened both to the path along which we walk (Gal 5) and to the field in which we sow (Gal 6). How can we expect to reap the *fruit* of the Spirit if we do not sow in the *field* of the Spirit? The old adage is true: ‘Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.’ This is good, biblical teaching.
Let us examine the two kinds of sowing which are possible, namely ‘sowing to the flesh’ and ‘sowing to the Spirit’.