“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
We live in a world of cause-and-effect. It is God’s design; it is how life works. You make choices, and your choices have consequences. As it says in Galatians, if you choose to walk in the Spirit, you will reap the fruit and the life the Spirit brings. But if you choose to follow the impulses of your old nature, you will reap the bitter fruit (Paul calls it corruption) that sin inevitably produces.
It is the immutable law of God. Paul underscores it in Galatians with a command (Do not be deceived) and a statement (God is not mocked). You will experience the consequences of your choices. You will reap what you sow.
To “sow to the flesh” is to indulge the passions and impulses of your old nature. It is to set your mind on the things of the fallen world. It is to pursue what 1 John describes as “the desires of the flesh (pleasure) and the desires of the eyes (coveting) and the pride of life (ego).” It is to pursue and participate in things that God forbids.
To “sow to the Spirit” is to study the word of God, seek God in prayer, and align your life with his commands. It is to love and serve others. It is to worship God in spirit and in truth. It is to set your mind on the things of the Spirit. It is to reject the temptations and seductions of the world and seek first the kingdom of God.
“You reap what you sow” is a timeless truth that is captured in the simple, powerful equation that many of you are familiar with:
Event + Response = Outcome
You don’t control the Events of life; nor do you control Outcomes. What you do control is how you choose to Respond. It’s called The R Factor.
Circumstances confront you with realities and constraints that you must navigate, but circumstances don’t produce outcomes; your choices do. Fruitfulness for Christ is found in choosing wisely and acting effectively in response to events and in pursuit of outcomes.
Life in Christ is not about the E; it is about the R. Life is about choices, not circumstances. If you choose a Spirit-driven Response, you will reap a Spirit-driven Outcome. But if you choose a flesh-driven Response, you will reap “corruption.” You reap what you sow.
Here are some basic E+R=O principles that align with “you reap what you sow.”
- The R you choose determines the O you get. If you aren’t getting the O you want, don’t blame the E. Choose a better R. Grow in grace. Train yourself in godliness. Get better. Trust God and do the work.
- Your R is most important when the E is most difficult. It’s inevitable: Disruptive events will happen, often when it’s least expected and most unwanted. But effectiveness in life is not determined by the events you experience; effectiveness is determined by how you choose to respond. Trust God and respond with faith and courage. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
- Your R is internal and mental first, and external and behavioral second. Your R begins in your heart and mind. This is why Paul tells us in Galatians that we are involved in an inner battle between the impulses of the old nature and the promptings of the new nature. It is why Ephesians tells to put off the old nature and put on the new nature “through the renewal of your mind.” Trust God and do the inner work.
- Your R is an E for others. Your R is deeply personal but rarely private. Your behavior affects more than you. Trust God and love and serve others. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
- Do not equate the delay of consequences with the absence of them. This is the core message. Choices have consequences. It is the way God has built the universe, and it applies to everyone. No one is exempt. Once again: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Trust God, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and manage your R with discipline.