Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
– Galatians 6:7 NIV
I gotta be real honest here. I’ve always been afraid of this verse in the Bible. Maybe it comes from my childhood church denomination, where somehow, I learned that God would smite me, or strike me with lightning when I got out of line, or stepped outside the behavior box. Not that I remember God ever smiting me or striking me with lightening; which is not to say, I never stepped out of the box. I did plenty of stepping outside the box, made plenty of mistakes … continue to make plenty of poor choices, but God doesn’t strike people with lightening when they sin. However, Christians are not immune to consequences of their poor actions.
Let me start over with this.
The Bible verse, if you read it out of context, like we do, reads something like an action / reaction kind of verse. Or a mistakes / consequences type of verse. I mean, come on now, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow.” That sounds like a bully verse from Paul. Something like, “If God doesn’t like your behavior, if you keep screwing up like this, God isn’t playin’ around, God’s going to take your lunch money, give you a wedgie, and put you in a corner” kind of verse. Am I right?!
Now, consequences are real. People who claim a faith relationship with Jesus Christ, are not immune from the consequences of their sins, even though believers are forgiven from the penalty of death for their sins (Rom.6:23). One of the main issues in this verse of Galatians 6:7 is that God is not going to be mocked. We cannot continue to indulge in sinful living, essentially mocking God, and taking advantage of grace through His son’s sacrifice on our behalf. Jesus didn’t die for nothing. Jesus died so you could be free from those things that are killing you.
This post isn’t about sin management … I promise.
I attended an amazing University back in the late 80’s. One reason it was such a great school is they offered bowling as a physical education elective. That’s right, bowling. So of course, like you do, I took bowling for a semester. Now in Southern California, in late Spring, the weather can get pretty warm. Besides bowling, I also took a class on marriage & family relationships. In the marriage class, my professor gave out small living potted plants for each student to take care of and nurture for the semester while we learned about “nurturing” relationships. These were the days, over 30 years ago, before kids are given robot babies in high school with GPS readings, and tracking systems … no, a potted plant.
I think you see where this is going.
I had bowling class, right after the marriage class. So, I took the plant with me to bowling, since I didn’t have time to get to my dorm and drop off the plant. And, getting to the bowling alley, I didn’t want to bring a plant into a smoking environment for 90 minutes. Remember the 80’s when people could smoke inside buildings? I know, right?! So, I left the plant inside my 1974 Brown Toyota Corolla, 2-door hatch back, but of course I rolled the window down one hand crank, so the air could circulate, duh, I’m not that stupid. Needless to say, after coming out of bowling class with a crushing score of like 100 something, I walked up to my car, jumped inside to get back to school in time for cafeteria for beef stroganoff dinner, before heading off to work. I forgot all about the plant in my car.
A couple days later, after dropping some fries between the seats on a fast food run, I looked behind the passenger seat on the floor board and found the not-so-living potted plant … absolutely dead. I failed that portion of the marriage class. Good thing it was only a plant, and not my real marriage.
I learned something that day; “you reap what you sow” wasn’t just a cliché, and failing that portion of the class was real life.
Poor decisions, lead to negative consequences. God will not be mocked.
Could God have saved that plant, in my car, on the floorboard, in 100-degree weather? Sure, He’s known for more miraculous things that that, but He didn’t. And I can’t mock God for letting it die. It was totally my fault.
But again, I don’t think the Apostle Paul is writing in Galatians 6 about “sin management”. I don’t think sin management is really the best life of the Christian.
I mean, should we avoid sin and live a holy life? Yes. Is it better for people of faith to not walk in darkness or sin, like those without faith in God? Yes. Does walking a more holy life “save you”, or make you more “saved”. No. Jesus did enough to rescue you from the penalty of death and separation from God, once and for all on the cross, when he died and rose to life by the power of God. He defeated sin’s power over people.
I grew up thinking this verse was about sin management. “Don’t screw up, or God will crush you.”
But, what if we read this verse in context, and look at the entire chapters of Galatians 5 & 6? What if we were to see that Paul here is talking about living out the fruit of the Spirit God gave you when you embraced a relationship with Jesus? What if life isn’t all about the “rules”, and more about living more freely in God’s Kingdom in the Son God loves. And, more than just living in God’s Kingdom, living out Kingdom living in your world.
In Apostle Paul’s day, there were people who were telling the young “Jesus Way” people, that you had to keep the Jewish law of circumcision in order for God to accept you. Paul was arguing that this kind of behavior based salvation was off the table now that Messiah has come. Paul was telling this young church in Galatia that faith people no longer live by laws, trying to win God’s favor. We are free to live a life of Spiritual Freedom in Christ, through Christ.
Those who walk by faith have been given miraculous gifts from God that manifest into fruit, like fruit on of a living tree. That fruitfulness is evidenced in things like love for others, joy beyond circumstances, peace of mind in the middle of a pandemic, patience for impatient people, kindness in the grocery store, goodness of heart, faithful living, gentle relationships, and the power of self-control when life is out of our control.
Then it gets better.
Paul goes on to say, in Galatians 6, that we ought to help one another grow in our fruitful expression of God’s grace. We ought to help one another bear more fruit and express the hope and grace of God in a world structure that is based on behavior and consequence. Why? Because the new creation has come, new living is the option, new freedoms are in place, new sowing of God’s Kingdom work is evident.
Here’s where it gets good.
What if this verse in Galatians 6:7 isn’t about God smacking you around when you sin; “You reap what you sow”, rather, what if this verse if about God reaping an unimaginable harvest of fruitful through you living out His Kingdom, when you share your fruitful gifts with the world?
What if “you reap what you sow” is a GOOD THING?!
What if, as faith people, we concentrate more on the task of sowing good in the world, and sowing love in the neighborhood, and sowing faith in the world, and sowing peace in the marketplace? What if reaping what we sow is God reaping a harvest of Christ-like people sharing the freedom of Spirit living in the world that attracts others toward God, rather than rule-makers and sin-managers pushing people away from God?
I don’t know about you, but I am no longer afraid of this verse in Galatians 6:7… “you reap what you sow”. If we look at it from a negative “I’m always screwing up, and I feel like I’m in trouble with God” kind of perspective, then we live afraid. Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind.” God doesn’t want you living in a spirit of fear negatively like, “you reap what you sow”, even though we are always a screw up and stepping outside the box. God doesn’t keep track of your sin, by the way.
Flip it over on its head.
What if God is saying, “start sowing good in the world, and I’ll reap a harvest through you”. Start using your faith to plant seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, good, faith, being gentle, and expressing self-control … and see what happens in the world around you.
God will not be mocked. You’ll never out-smart God. Don’t even try.
But God is also faithful, and He will use every single act of good that you sow in this dark time, to reap a harvest of good to come.
Plants die in a hot car in the summer, and even though I failed that portion of the class, God is still faithful. Grades aren’t everything. I grew from that experience. Let us stop living under the behavior pandemic of “sin management” and live a new creation life of freedom and hope, like Apostle Paul wrote about in Galatians, so that the sowing of the fruit in our lives might be the greatest expression of God’s Kingdom in your world, today. God will not be mocked, He’s paying attention to what you’re sowing… let’s sow some good in the world and see what God can do with it.