Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.…
As we look at retribution in the mingled light of revelation and reason, we can understand why it is that some sins are punished in this world, while other sins await punishment in a future world. If we were to classify the sins that reap their painful consequences here, and those that do not, we would find that the former are offences that pertain to the body, and the order of this world; and that the latter pertain more directly to the spiritual nature. The classification is not sharp; the parts shade into one another; but it is as accurate as is the distinction between the two departments of our nature. In his physical and social nature man was made under the laws of this world. If he breaks these laws, the penalty is inflicted here. It may continue hereafter, for the grave feature of penalty is that it does not tend to end, but continues to act, like force imparted to an object in a vacuum, until arrested by some outside power. But man is also under spiritual laws — reverence, humility, love, self-denial, purity, and all that are commonly known as moral duties. If he offends against these, he may incur but little of painful consequence. There may be much of evil consequence, but the phase of suffering lies farther on. The soil and atmosphere of this world are not adapted to bring it to full fruitage. We constantly see men going through life with little pain or misfortune, perhaps with less than the ordinary share of human suffering, yet we term them sinners. They do not love nor fear God; they have no true love for man; they reject the law of self-denial and the duty of ministration; they stand off from any direct relations to God; they do not pray; their motives are selfish; their temper is worldly; they are devoid of what are called graces, except as mere germs or chance outgrowths, and make no recognition of them as forming the substance of true character. These men seem to be sinning without punishment, and often infer that they do not deserve it. The reason is plain. They keep the laws that pertain to this world, and so do not come in the way of their penalties. They are temperate, and are blessed with health. They are shrewd and economical, and amass wealth. They are prudent, and avoid calamities. They are worldly wise, and thus secure worldly advantages. Courteous in manners, understanding well the intricacies of life, careful in device and action, they secure the good and avoid the evil of the world. If there were no other world, they would be the wisest men, because they best obey the laws of their condition. But man covers two worlds, and he must settle with each before his destiny is decided: he may pass the judgment seat of one acquitted, but stand convicted before the other. It is as truly a law of our nature that we shall worship, as that we shalt eat. If one starves his body, he reaps the fruit of emaciation and disease. But one may starve his soul and none remark it. This world is not the background upon which such processes appear, or they appear but dimly; but when the spiritual world is reached, this spiritual crime will show itself....It is not strange that the world of thinking men reject the doctrine of punishment of sin when it is taught as some far off, arbitrary, outside infliction by God in vindication of His government, the issue of some special sentence after special inquisition. This is unlike God, it has no analogy, no vindication in the Scriptures; it is artificial, coarse, unreasonable. But carry the subject over into the field of cause and effect, and we find it irradiated by the double light of reason and revelation. It takes on a necessary aspect. Penalty is seen to be a natural thing, like the growing of seed. It is not a matter that God, in His sovereignty, will take up after a time, but is a part of His ever-acting law.
(T. T. Munger.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.