The dictionary describes “you reap what you sow” as a peculiar expression of language that uses words that don’t describe its true meaning. Just as “raining cats and dogs” means a downpour of rain, “reaping what you sow” expresses the terrible outcome of something you did previously. They have it partially correct, but is “we reap what we sow” in the Bible?
Gardeners and farmers are familiar with the principle of sowing and reaping. We plant and tend; hoping for a bountiful harvest.
The Law of Sowing and Reaping
Our own agricultural roots go back to the first farmer, Adam. Instead of receiving his nourishment from God in the garden, his consequence for sin was to work by the “sweat of his brow.” God also cursed the ground, so it would not be easy. (Genesis 3:17-19).
This principle isn’t just about farming, though.
Our disobedience to God’s law has natural consequences. We make mistakes and poor decisions, and even though the consequences may be painful, we still have a God full of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
There are also times, however, when we don’t reap what we sow. We may escape the consequences, but we must still repent and ask for forgiveness, which He promises to give.
And finally, sometimes God uses this principle to bless us! He offers us seeds of faith. When we plant these seeds in obedience, our harvest is being transformed into His likeness.
Bible Verses about Sowing and Reaping
The Old Testament writers frequently used illustrations of fields and crops because farming was a relatable topic in Biblical times.
For example, Job’s friends had some misguided reasoning for Job’s suffering. One claimed to know by personal experience that suffering was always a direct result of sin and punishment from God.
“As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.”
While this is mostly an accurate statement, it did not apply to Job. This friend was making wrong assumptions about Job; thinking that good people never suffer.
Job’s friend was wrong and God was angry at him for it, commanding him to make a burnt offering in atonement. (Job 42:7-9)
Suffering in this world is a given, even if we sowed nothing to caused it.
“The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.” NASB.
Deceptive and dishonest people are corrupt; money is their only reward. But God gives physical and spiritual blessings to the honest worker who lives with integrity.
“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love.”
What wonderful advice! Israel was in a sinful state. But God is encouraging them to sow seeds of righteousness [holy living] so they would reap His blessings of enduring love.
What are these seeds of righteousness?
Seeds of righteousness are your actions that produce good fruit; reflecting God in our lives. They are the kinds of seed we plant as we work to build the kingdom of God. They come from intentionally seeking Him.
There are two verses in the New Testament that directly reference the “you reap what you sow” saying.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” v7 NKJV.
When I plant pumpkin seeds, I don’t expect to see eggplant on the vines.
The same holds true in our lives. If we plant seeds of sin, we will harvest the natural consequences of them (at some point.)
We can’t expect a “good harvest” by planting seeds of anger, pride, greed, etc.
However, if we plant spiritual seed, our harvest will be joy-filled and productive.
“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.” v8 ESV.
If we plant thinking only of ourselves, we’ll eventually reap a crop of sadness and sorrow. If we plant to please God, we harvest joy and everlasting life!
2 Corinthians 9:6
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
The Apostle Paul tells us even if we have little, we can still give generously. The spirit in which a gift is given determines generosity, not the amount.
We reap both material and spiritual blessings when we give. God will meet all our needs.
Jesus frequently spoke of reaping and sowing. He uses the Parable of the Sower to explain how we can prepare the soil of our hearts to receive His Word.
When the Word of God is sown (we hear/read it), it should reap a bountiful harvest of fruit and blessings in our lives.
“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
If His Word has taken root in our hearts, we will produce an abundant harvest of peace, blessings, joy, and love. We make better choices and our actions better reflect Jesus.
He then transitions into the Parable of the Weeds–
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.”
The farmer’s servants wanted to pull up the weeds. But doing so would bring the wheat with them, so the wise farmer allowed the two crops to grow until harvest and then separated them, burning the weeds.
This parable uses the “harvest” as a metaphor for His final judgement. Jesus is the one sowing good seeds (true believers), the world is the field, and the Enemy sows the weeds (unbelievers).
He shows us there are two different paths for us to take. Only Jesus sows true believers. We are destined to shine like the sun in our Father’s eternal kingdom!
“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
If we want to “harvest a crop of righteousness”, we need to cultivate a climate of peace. Love peace, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18), and create conditions of peace around you.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9.
Jesus tells us, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38.
He was specifically speaking about not criticizing others, but the principal applies to treating others generously, with grace and compassion. As we pour out these qualities, they come back to us in abundance.
Or as James says,:
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22.
Jesus is looking for followers who live out His teachings. He has graced us with so many blessings (seeds). Sow them generously!
Think of the things God has given to you today. He is such a generous giver! He promises us His gifts of comfort, grace, peace, mercy, strength, joy, wisdom- the list goes on and on!
Sow these things lavishly and liberally onto others in your “field” and watch how God blesses you.
Sowing Spiritual Seeds
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5.
We will battle our own sinful nature all our lives. We make bad decisions and hold on to bad habits and material things. Going our own way seems better to us.
When we stumble and sow bad things, however, the result is to reap bad things.
We want to sow good things, of course. How can we overcome our desire for worldly things and sow spiritual things instead?
When we became Christians, He filled us with His Holy Spirit. Now that we have it, we must keep it active in our spiritual life.
“Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
What a battle! We must let the stronger Holy Spirit lead us daily. We help by cultivating the good habits of listening for his promptings and a strong desire to obey God’s Word.
Paul gives us the list of the fruits of the Spirit for us to work on:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23.
These are the very nature of Jesus Christ that can grow in us by committing to know Him better, love Him completely, and doing our best to follow His ways.
Take stock of your personal relationships and see where you can do better in sowing seeds of His Spirit.
Reaping What I Sow
We can’t harvest if we don’t sow, but it’s hard work to keep sowing. We can get weary and feel stuck in hard times, disappointments, sickness, and grief.
Paul gives us this encouragement:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” v9.
It can be discouraging at times to sow generously and receive nothing in return. But Paul is challenging us to keep doing good works and to trust God for the results. Our blessing will come in His due season.
There will even be times we don’t get to see the fruit of what we sow. Someone else may harvest what we plant. That doesn’t take away from the need to be continually sowing.
God’s plan calls for some of us to be “planters” and some to be “harvesters.”
Paul talks about the Gospel ministry like this: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” 1Corinthians 3:6.
Paul planted the message of salvation; Apollos helped the new believers grow stronger in their faith, and it was the Holy Spirit who guided them into His truth.
He continues in verse 8: “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”
We all have a part to play. We are equal team members but equipped for our own special role by God.
God has planted you specifically where you are today for His glory. What seeds will you sow?
All Scripture is from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
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