“Whatever a Man Is Sowing, This He Will Also Reap”
“Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Gal. 6:7, 8.
1, 2. (a) How does the principle stated at Galatians 6:7 prove true as to literal sowing? (b) How does Paul apply the principle to the Christian?
HOW well the farmer knows the truthfulness of this principle, “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap,” as far as it may be applied to his literal sowing and reaping! After having sown his fields with oats, when the time comes for the new blades to begin sprouting it is too late for him to wish he had planted wheat instead. No amount of wishful thinking on his part will change his crop into something else. No! The farmer is bound to reap what he has sown. An unchangeable law of nature is at work, a law that originated with the Creator of all living things. As the inspired account of creation tells us: “And God went on to say: ‘Let the earth cause grass to shoot forth, vegetation bearing seed, fruit trees yielding fruit according to their kinds, the seed of which is in it, upon the earth.’” (Gen. 1:11) In the outworking of this natural law, “God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Gal. 6:7.
2 The inevitability of this natural law underscores the force of Paul’s words in verse eight of this chapter 6 of his letter to the Galatians 6:8: “Because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” Yes, what we sow in the soil of our lives is bound to have fruitage also ‘according to its kind,’ according to whether the seed we sow is good or bad, with a view to the spirit or with a view to the flesh. Since “God is not one to be mocked” in this regard either, it behooves us to look well to the way we sow now.
3. As to our personal lives, what can be said as to the seed we can sow and as to our motive in sowing?
3 As regards our personal lives, the purpose for which we sow is as important as the seed itself. We can have good “seed” to sow, but wrong motive, “sowing with a view to [the] flesh.” This can corrupt the seed and yield corrupt fruitage. Health, strength, time, the power of speech, hearing, the ability to read, other natural abilities, opportunities of being with others, responsibility toward others—each and all of suchlike things can be used for good or for ill, for the selfish satisfaction of the flesh or for the upbuilding of the spiritual lives of ourselves and others.
4. What is one way of ‘sowing with a view to the flesh’?
4 In view of the fact that sowing with a view to the flesh means reaping corruption, you will surely want to avoid sowing in that way. How is it that one ‘sows with a view to the flesh’? A number of things readily come to mind that are rightly included in this kind of sowing. Not the least of these is the pursuit of material possessions as an end in itself. Do you find yourself discontented with what you have? jealous or envious of what others possess? Are you getting caught up in the frantic struggle to keep up with the Joneses? If so, it is time to take an honest look at the way you are sowing. It could well be that it is with a view to the flesh.
5. How can we sow with a view to the spirit even in connection with material things?
5 Not that it is wrong to have some concern for material things. A man who has a family must give some thought to providing the needed material things of life: food, clothing and adequate shelter for his wife and children. A Christian failing to make such provision is spoken of as having “disowned the faith” and being “worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) But the Christian does not want to be “eagerly pursuing” as his goal in life the satisfaction of his material needs, as is the case with the peoples of the nations as a whole. (Matt. 6:32) Jesus commanded: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) So it is a matter of keeping things in their right place, not “sowing with a view to [the] flesh” by making material things one’s goal in life, but using our material possessions as a means to increase our praise and service of the true God, Jehovah. In this way we will be sowing so as to benefit our spiritual lives, and we will be taking into account the will of Jehovah, the Great Spirit, as this is made plain for us by the operation of his holy spirit or active force and by means of his Word of truth.
6. How did many of the Jews who followed Jesus manifest a wrong viewpoint toward his ministry?
6 Many of the Jews who followed Jesus for a while evidenced that they did so “with a view to [the] flesh” and not with a view to spiritual things. On one occasion a crowd of Jews followed Jesus from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee over to Capernaum. When they finally caught up with Jesus, he said to them: “Most truly I say to you, You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied. Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting.” (John 6:26, 27) Having just shared in the overabundant supply of food miraculously provided for the 5,000, they figured that following Jesus was an easy way to satisfy their selfish appetites. They gave no thought to the significance of the miracles they beheld, which were, in reality, signs proving Jesus to be the long-promised Messiah, the very “bread of life.”—John 6:41-48.
7. What opportunities and dangers come with material riches, with what possible consequences?
7 It may be true that possession of material wealth brings a certain amount of pleasure. A Christian possessed of riches is, in fact, in a position to do a great amount of good in behalf of others, and particularly in advancing the interests of God’s kingdom. Doing so results in genuine pleasure and satisfaction. But all too often the possession of wealth leads to the pursuit of selfish pleasure, to a ‘sowing with a view to the flesh.’ Money opens the door to opportunities for worldly pleasures hitherto denied, and the temptation is strong to enjoy them while the door is open. If “the deceptive power of riches” takes hold, it chokes out the love of the truth and, within a little time, causes one to be “unfruitful” as to spiritual things. (Matt. 13:22, and footnote in 1950 edition) Yes, “those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) In this respect, then, you will not want to be misled. If you sow with a view to the flesh because of love of money you are bound to reap corruption, yes, destruction and ruin. For “God is not one to be mocked” as to the outworking of this law of life either.
IMPROPER SEXUAL DESIRE
8-10. (a) In what way may the seeds of improper sexual desire be sown in the mind? (b) If unchecked, to what does such desire inevitably lead?
8 The harboring of improper sexual desires is likewise a “sowing with a view to [the] flesh,” which, if unchecked, is certain to produce eventually the fruitage of corruption. At Galatians 5:19 the apostle Paul lists first among “the works of the flesh” fruits of improper sexual desires, namely, “fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct.”
9 In this connection we might think back for a moment on the illustration of the farmer sowing seed in his fields. Actually the grains of seed he sows are very small, and when they fall on the ground they become practically invisible. Likewise, in connection with improper sexual desires. The seed may be small and sown almost indiscernibly to others, possibly even to ourselves. Today, from every direction the enticements to improper sexual desires crowd in upon us, and especially upon the teen-agers. “Romantic” novels, and particularly the cheap picture-story-type magazines, glamorize fornication and adultery under the guise of “true love,” the hero rescuing the heroine from an “unfortunate marriage,” and suchlike. Few films today can hope for success without somewhere in the script pandering to the perverted moral taste of the majority of cinemagoers. Schoolchildren, especially those at high schools, are exposed to the talk of their schoolmates, which often gravitates to sex and “adventures” with those of the opposite sex, real or imagined.
10 A young Christian may be tempted to say that he can listen to such conversations without harm. “They just go in one ear and out the other,” he might say. But, beware! As information goes in one ear and out the other it passes through the mind, and, on its way, small seeds of unclean thoughts can take root and later germinate into improper sexual desire. Certainly if one spends time with sexy books and allows the mind to toy with what one reads or sees in the way of sexy pictures, unclean thoughts are bound to be the result along with improper sexual desire. And such “sowing with a view to [the] flesh,” even though in the privacy of one’s mind, will in due time lead to those works of the flesh, “fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct.” “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked,” for one sowing in this manner will indeed reap in like manner, along with “corruption from his flesh.”
11. (a) Loose sexual conduct leads to what still greater corruption? (b) What admonition is therefore appropriate?
11 While it is true that loose sexual conduct leads as often as not to the literal corruption of the flesh in the way of syphilis, gonorrhea and other social diseases, “sowing with a view to [the] flesh” leads to the greater corruption that means the loss of all life from God, loss of the hope of living everlastingly. Wrote Paul to the Romans: “The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, . . . those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:6-8) Yes, the time for such “sowing with a view to [the] flesh” must be in the past for those who have come to the light of truth. They no longer want to be reaping the fruitage of darkness but want to reap the fruit of light. “For you were once darkness,” wrote the apostle, “but you are now light in connection with the Lord. Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth. . . . So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.”—Eph. 5:8-16.
THE RIGHT MOTIVE
12. What effect does wrong motive have on the spiritual life of the Christian?
12 But there are other ways of “sowing with a view to [the] flesh” that may not be quite so obvious and yet can also greatly affect our spiritual growth as Christians and even be disastrous for us. We can even be doing things that are right and good in themselves, but, if the motive is wrong, if our actions are for self-justification, self-praise or from a spirit of jealousy or rivalry, our good works would be worthless and we would see the corrupting of our spiritual lives.—Rom. 10:3; Prov. 14:30.
13. Why did the Law not lead the majority of Jews to accept Christ?
13 This very attitude corrupted the nation of Israel. Jehovah God, through the mediator Moses, gave that nation a set of laws, “the Law.” In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains that the Law “was added to make transgressions manifest,” to remind the Jews that they were sinners in need of the kind of sacrifice that could really take away sins and deliver them from the condemnation of death. They were really “being guarded under law, being delivered up together into custody,” which should have resulted in their “looking to the faith that was destined to be revealed.” Thus the Law would have been for them a “tutor leading to Christ.” (Gal. 3:19, 23, 24) But the Jews as a nation would not have it that way. They did keep many of the things of the Law, but they did not attain to the goal to which the Law was leading. “Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to the law. For what reason? Because he pursued it, not by faith, but as by works.” The Jews wanted to make “a pleasing appearance in the flesh” and wanted others to be circumcised and keep the Law so that they might have “cause for boasting in [the] flesh” of others.—Rom. 9:31, 32; Gal. 6:12, 13.
14, 15. (a) How did Jesus illustrate the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees? (b) How can Christians today fall into this same snare of self-righteousness?
14 Seeing this spirit in the Jewish leaders of his day, Jesus “spoke this illustration also to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and who considered the rest as nothing: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and began to pray these things to himself, “O God, I thank you I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give the tenth of all things I acquire.” But the tax collector standing at a distance was not willing even to raise his eyes heavenward, but kept beating his breast, saying, “O God, be gracious to me a sinner.” I tell you, This man went down to his home proved more righteous than that man; because everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted.’”—Luke 18:9-14.
15 While Christians today are not under the Law that was given through Moses to Israel, yet, being imperfect and subject to sin, they can fall into the same snare of self-righteousness, making “partial distinctions” on the basis of the works of the flesh, pursuing righteousness “not by faith, but as by works.” (Jas. 3:17; Rom. 9:32) Therefore, let us ever remember that any standing as to righteousness we have with God is only as a result of the undeserved kindness of God on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of his beloved Son, Jesus.
16. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses keep a record of the work accomplished in the ministry, and what is the purpose of setting goals in the ministry?
16 Jehovah’s witnesses are busy people. They have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” and they have confidence that, as they keep their motive for their service pure and on the basis of love, their “labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) They invite others of all nations to share with them in their fine work of declaring the good news of God’s kingdom, recognizing that “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) Being interested in the progress of this Kingdom work, they keep a record of their activity, of the hours spent in preaching and of the results obtained. Besides providing encouragement as the progress is noted, it also helps congregations to see readily where improvement can be made and as to how the ministry can be carried on more effectively. Such records also provide the basis for rendering loving personal assistance to new ministers and to those who are finding difficulty in making advancement in the ministry. To provide some basis for considering the congregation’s progress as a whole, suggested average goals have been offered as a means of encouraging a balanced ministry, so that attention is given to covering territory regularly by house-to-house visits as well as to making return visits and conducting home Bible studies with interested persons.
17. What should not be made the basis for judging the integrity of fellow Christians, and why?
17 But such suggested goals can never be used as a basis for measuring the integrity of a Christian. Nor should one’s works in the ministry become the basis for making comparisons with other Christians so as to lead to self-righteousness and boasting. Many years of full-time preaching or of serving in some prominent position in Jehovah’s organization provide no basis for making partial distinctions or for becoming like those for whom Jesus gave the illustration noted above, those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and who considered the rest as nothing.” (Luke 18:9) Not everyone is in the same stage of growth toward Christian maturity. Also, circumstances and natural abilities determine to some extent what someone can do or cannot do in the way of Christian activity, just as they may determine what one can do in the way of giving financial support to God’s work, as Jesus illustrated in his comments about the contribution for the temple made by the needy widow.—Luke 21:1-4.
18. What right attitude toward his ministry will a Christian want to take?
18 The Christian minister will never want to become a slave to figures; to be putting in time preaching just for the sake of reaching some hour-quota, or to build up some record of service with his congregation or with the Watch Tower Society. While it is commendable for a minister to seek to reach or surpass suggested goals for a balanced ministry, it would be unwise indeed to make these an end in themselves. Always, the Christian minister will want to keep alive in his heart and mind the right motives for his service activity, indeed, in all he does in connection with the congregation. “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance.”—Col. 3:23, 24.
19, 20. Why is prayer before setting out in preaching activity appropriate and beneficial?
19 That is why it is most appropriate that each one of Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses spend some time in prayer before each occasion of sharing in the ministry. Whenever Jehovah’s witnesses meet together before sharing in group preaching activity a prayer for Jehovah’s blessing on their activity is always offered. For one thing, this helps them to be mindful of the purpose of their preaching. First and foremost, this is to declare Jehovah’s great name and purpose. Then, too, it provides the opportunity to aid righteously disposed persons to find the way of salvation and life, while, at the same time, to sound the warning of Jehovah’s judgments due to come on this present evil system of things. Also, the ministry provides each one of us with the opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty and integrity to Almighty God.
20 Preaching with such thoughts in mind always results in joyful satisfaction, no matter how people respond to the message. Truly, this is sowing with a view to the spirit.
21. Why may the Christian ministry become burdensome to some, and what danger then appears?
21 It may be that you are one who has shared in the Christian ministry for a number of years but now finds missing this feeling of joyful satisfaction. The preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom may have become such a burdensome thing to you that you are at the point of quitting this blessed work altogether, or you may have already done so. Why should this be? At one time you did have joy in the service of God, did you not? Yes, you were once filled with enthusiasm and zeal. You were able to say that you had the “spirit” of Christian service. You had started out sowing with a view to the spirit. But somewhere along the way perhaps you changed your sowing habits. Could it be that you allowed yourself to fall into the habit of looking at things in a fleshly way, seeing just quotas, figures, working just for the work’s sake without the real goal in mind and failing to keep alive your faith by feeding on the Word of God? After starting out well in sowing with a view to the spirit, you may now be in danger of failing altogether to attain to completeness of spiritual maturity, something that never can be attained by sowing to the flesh.—Gal. 3:2, 3.
22. (a) What incentive is there for us to sow “with a view to the spirit”? (b) What fruitage is to be reaped now by those who sow in harmony with God’s spirit?
22 Sincerely consider the question: How are you sowing? With a view to the flesh or with a view to the spirit? Without doubt it is your desire to sow with a view to the spirit. Why, otherwise, would you be reading this magazine? Be assured of this: just as the one “sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh,” just as surely the one “sowing with a view to the spirit” will reap something. What? Everlasting life! (Gal. 6:8) What an incentive to look well to the way we are sowing, to learn how to sow in harmony with God’s spirit to the eternal interests of our spiritual lives! Even now there is a bountiful fruitage for us to reap as we sow with a view to the spirit. By all means, then, “keep walking by spirit . . . the fruitage of the spirit [even now] is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. . . . If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit.”—Gal. 5:16, 22-25.