A Commentary by John Stott
*And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith*. The subject changes somewhat from personal holiness to doing good, helping others, engaging in philanthropic activity in the church or community. But the apostle treats this too under the metaphor of sowing and reaping.
Some incentive is certainly needed in Christian well-doing. Paul recognizes this, for he urges his readers not to ‘grow weary’ or ‘lose heart’ (cf. 2 Thes.3:13). Active Christian service is tiring, exacting work. We are tempted to become discouraged, to slack off, even to give up.
So the apostle gives us this incentive: he tells us that doing good is like sowing seed. If we persevere in sowing, then ‘in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart’. If the farmer tires of sowing and leaves half his field unsown, he will reap only half a crop. It is the same with good deeds. If we want a harvest, then we must finish the sowing and be patient, like the farmer who ‘waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it…’ (Jas.5:7). As John Brown put it: ‘Christians frequently act like children in reference to this harvest. They would sow and reap in the same day.’
If the sowing is the doing of good works in the community, what is the harvest? Paul does not tell us; he leaves us to guess. But the patient doing of good in the church or community always produces good results. It may bring comfort, relief or assistance to people in need. It may lead a sinner to repentance and so to salvation; Jesus Himself spoke of this work as sowing and reaping (Mt. 9:37; Jn. 4:35-38). It may help to arrest the moral deterioration of society (this is the function of ‘the salt of the earth’) and even to make it a sweeter and more wholesome place to live in. It may increase men’s respect for what is beautiful, goodand true, especially in days when standards are slipping fast. And it will bring good to the doer as well – not indeed salvation (for this is a free gift of God), but some reward in heaven for faithful service, which will probably take the form of yet more responsible service.
*So then* (Paul continues (verse 10), since the sowing of good seed results in a good harvest), *as we have opportunity (and this earthly life is full of such opportunity), let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith*. This household consists of our fellow-believers, who share with us ‘like precious faith’ (2 Pet.1:1, AV) and so are our brothers and sisters in the family of God. As the old saying goes, ‘Charity begins at home’, towards kinsmen who may claim our first loyalty, although Christian charity must never stop there. We are to love and serve our enemies, Jesus said, not only our friends. Thus, a ‘patient continuance in well-doing’ is a characteristic of the true Christian, a characteristic so indispensable that it will be taken as evidence of saving faith on the Judgment Day (see Rom.2:7, AV).
We have considered the three spheres of Christian life to which Paul applies his inexorable principle that ‘whatever a man sows, that he will also reap’. In the first, the seed is *God’s Word*, sown by teachers in the minds and hearts of the congregation. In the second, the seed is *our own thoughts and deeds*, sown in the field of the flesh or the Spirit. In the third, the seed is *good works*, sown in the lives of other people in the community.
And in each case, although the seed and the soil are different, seed-time is followed by harvest. The teacher who sows God’s Word will reap his living; it is God’s purpose that he should. The sinner who sows to the flesh will reap corruption. The believer who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life, an ever- deepening communion with God. The Christian philanthropist who sows good works in the community will reap a good crop in the lives of those he serves and a reward for himself in eternity.
In none of these spheres can God be mocked. In each the same principle invariably operates. And since we cannot fool God, we are fools if we try to fool ourselves! We must neither ignore nor resist this law, but accept it and co-operate with it. We must have the good sense to allow it to govern our lives. ‘Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.’ We must expect to reap what we sow. Therefore, if we want to reap a good harvest, we must sow, and keep sowing, good seed. Then, in due time, we shall reap.