Perhaps you’ve heard the old expression that says, “You reap what you sow.” This proverb is found in the Biblical book of Galatians and it brings to mind the image of a farmer who plants (or “sows”) the seed that he or she will harvest (or “reap”) later on.
Now a farmer who plants one sort of crop would not normally expect to harvest a totally different crop later on- he or she would expect to reap the very same crop that was planted earlier, right? Well, this same idea can be applied spiritually as well…
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV).
The word “mocked” used above means to turn up the nose at, sneer at, or to treat with contempt. Unfortunately, people frequently act this way towards God, if you really stop to think about it. For example, this sort of attitude can be seen whenever someone uses Jesus’ name as a swear word or whenever someone uses God’s name in a trivial way such as in, “ohmigod” or OMG. Speaking of God in such a frivolous, superficial manner is something that shows contempt for God because it indicates that God’s name is not worthy to be taken seriously.
So in light of this, we might ask why this verse says that God can’t be mocked when people seem to do that very thing all the time. Well, the answer is that this verse doesn’t mean that God cannot be mocked because it’s impossible; it means that you can’t mock God and get away with it. It means that anyone who acts disrespectfully towards God will eventually face the consequences or “reap what they sow,” so to speak.
And what would those consequences be? Well, the next verse goes on to talk about that…
“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8 NIV).
We can illustrate this idea by using the imagery of a great feast. This feast is a feast that every human being will take part in, but it won’t be a feast of eating and drinking- this feast will be a feast of consequences.
You see, the time will come when every human being will be served with his or her own personal feast of consequences. Every feast of consequences will be unique because it will be created by the choices that each individual person makes throughout his or her life. In fact, everyone is working now to prepare their very own feast of consequences later. Everyone is setting their own table and preparing the consequences that will be served- and no detail will be overlooked.
As the Scripture above implies, a person who follows God’s path now is someone who is preparing for a good feast of consequences later. On the other hand, a person who ignores God now and is only interested in satisfying his or her own desires will eventually reap a feast of corruption (or destruction) as it says above. So everyone is making the choices now that will establish their own personal feast of consequences later. (1)
Another good illustration of this idea comes from the well-known story, A Christmas Carol written by the famous author Charles Dickens. In this story, a stingy, tightfisted businessman named Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, a man named Jacob Marley. Like Scrooge, Marley had also been a selfish person who was only concerned about money during his life. This attitude had terrible consequences for Marley, for after his death, he was condemned to walk the earth wearing steel chains made of money-boxes, padlocks, and financial records as a punishment for his greed and selfishness.
But seven years after his death, Marley was permitted to visit Scrooge one last time to warn him to change his selfish ways before it was too late. When Scrooge asked Marley why he was wearing chains, Marley replied by saying this…
“I wear the chain I forged in life… I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I (put) it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it…” (2)
In other words, Marley’s selfish actions during his life became a heavy chain that haunted him after his death. While A Christmas Carol is not a Biblical story, Dickens was right in at least one sense- like Jacob Marley, the choices that you make today will affect your fate tomorrow. The Bible talks more about this in the New Testament book of First Timothy (1 Timothy)…
“The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden” (1 Timothy 5:24-25 NIV).
Sometimes it’s easy to see the bad things that people do but other times, those things can’t be seen at all. And of course, some people are very good at hiding those activities that are evil, dishonest, or morally wrong. But nothing can ever be hidden from God (see 1 Corinthians 4:5).
While it may sometimes seem as if people will never have to answer for the wrong things that they have done, make no mistake- no one “gets away with it” forever. The consequences always come; it’s just a question of when. Or as it says in Romans 2:6, God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” Of course, this idea is also true for those who honor God with their lives -but those consequences will be very different and a whole lot better (see 1 Corinthians 2:9).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9-10 NIV).
If the good things that you are doing now don’t seem to be producing any results, don’t give up! Hang in there, because your efforts on God’s behalf will eventually pay off just as the Scripture quoted above tells us. So be sure that you sow well now because you can definitely expect to harvest a good crop later.
(1) This imagery of a “banquet of consequences” has often been attributed (although perhaps somewhat inaccurately) to Scottish writer and poet Robert Louis Stevenson.
(2) Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol 1843