Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.…
I. THE SOWING. That is a description of our life — a description which very few people, old or young, seem to think of. Our present life is our sowing-time for eternity. You may have been in the country in spring, when the frost and snow have disappeared, and preparations are being made for the work of the coming year. The ground has been ploughed and manured and made ready for receiving the seed, and you may have seen sacks of seed-corn standing all over the field, and men walking up and down the furrows, with bags tied round their waist or slung across their breast, throwing out their arms in a peculiar way. Those of you who have been brought up in towns, may have thought they were taking exercise on a cold spring morning, or were amusing themselves. But if you had asked them, "What are you doing?" you would have got the answer, "We are sowing." If you had stood in their way, or done anything to interrupt them, or put off their time, they would have called out to you, "Keep out of our way, we are sowing; this is seed-time. After a long winter, we must make the most of spring, for all the rest of the year depends on what we make of it. If we lose the spring, we lose the harvest; and so we want to make the most of every hour. We have not a minute to spare." Or you have seen in the garden, at the same season of the year, the gardener busy at work. Everybody wanted to have him, and so he was hurrying through with his work, in one garden after another, late and early. If you had asked him, "What are you doing, gardener?" he would have said, "I am sowing — pease, and turnips, and lettuce, and carrots, and spinach; or mignonette, and sweet pea, and candytuft, and saponaria, and asters, and marigolds, and wallflower, and stock. If we miss these weeks — if we were not to sow, as we are doing, you would have no vegetables and no flowers. And what would you say to that? All depends on what we are now doing. It is the most important work of the year." Now, suppose some mischievous boy were to take up a handful of vegetable seeds and to scatter peas and beans and potatoes over the flower-beds; or a handful of flower-seeds, and were to scatter Indian cress, and wallflower, and Virginian stock, and Venus' looking-glass, and Love-lies-bleeding over the vegetable-beds, the gardener would call to him, "Stop, boy! do you know what you are doing?" "Getting a little fun," he might say. "Fun is all very good in its own place," says the gardener, "but you are sowing. It is not as if you were scattering clay, or stones, or bits of wood. These are seeds, and they will grow; they will spring up again; and what a strange sight the garden will be!" Now your life is just like that. It may seem mere amusement to some; but it is a sowing — a scattering of seed.
1. The sowers — who are they? All of you. Every one who lives sows, and sows until he dies.
2. The seed — what is it? Everything that you do. There has never been a day or an hour in which you have not been sowing. You have never done anything else. Your work, your play, your lessons at home or at school during the week or on the Lord's Day, when you were at your games, when you were reading some story or other book, when you were amusing yourself or other people — it was a seed which you were sowing — sowing, indeed, for this life, but sowing also for the life to come — for eternity. Some of us have the field or garden of our life well filled up — some have it almost full, almost all sown over. Some have only a tenth of the field filled, and some an eighth, and some a fifth, and some a quarter, and some a half; and by the time we come to die, it will be filled altogether; it will be like a field in which every corner is sown with seed. Have you ever thought of this? Do you ever think of it? No action of your life is done with. It may be out of sight. It may be out of mind. It may have troubled you for a while, and you said, "I wish I could forget it." And you have forgotten it. Or you have never thought about it. It has never troubled you. And yet it is no more done with than the seed that is buried in the ground, and that will spring up by and by. "Whatsoever a man soweth," is just the same as saying, "Whatsoever a man does."
3. The character or kind of the sowing — what is it? All the sowing must be one or other of two kinds. There is an endless variety of seed. If you were to take a seedsman's catalogue, you would find an almost endless list of seeds and roots. And so there is no limit to the number and variety of actions which you do. But they may all be divided into two classes. They may all be arranged under two heads. The verse that follows our text tells what these are. The one is "Sowing to the flesh;" the other, "Sowing to the Spirit." Take anything you have done during the past week — anything you are about to do now, and ask yourselves: Is this sowing "to the flesh, or to the Spirit?" Is it only to please myself, or is it to please God?
II. THE REAPING. Wherever there has been a sowing, people expect a reaping. The harvest follows the spring. It is God's arrangement in the world of nature everywhere, and so it is in the moral and spiritual world.
1. The reapers — who are they? All of you. As you are all sowers, so you shall all be reapers, every one of you. Every sower shall be a reaper, and he shall reap what he sowed. "That shall he also reap." He must do it himself. No one can do it for him. He cannot hand it over to another.
2. The kind of reaping — what shall it be? Of the same kind as the sowing. It must be so. Every kind of seed has fruit of its own kind. Everybody knows to expect this. If a farmer sowed oats, he would not expect to reap wheat or barley. If he sowed turnips, he would not expect to gather potatoes. And just so with your actions, your conduct, your life. You cannot do one kind of action, and expect fruit of a different kind. You cannot have an evil sowing, and expect to reap what is good. You cannot sow to the flesh, and reap what is of the Spirit. And as we saw there are but two kinds of sowing, so there will be but two kinds of reaping — the one, in each case, corresponding to the other. It is not merely that if we do what is wrong, we shall be punished for it. But if we sow evil, we shall reap evil. The one grows out of the other. If you sow nettle seed, the nettle with its sting will come of it. If you sow the thistle, the thistle with its prickles will spring up. And so with sin. And so, also, with good.
3. The measure of the reaping — what shall it be? What is the measure of other reaping, as compared with the sowing? Plant a single grain of corn in the ground, and from the one grain you have several stalks, and each head has many grains. Plant a pea or a potatoe, and how many you get for the one. Some people think sin a very small thing, to have such consequences coming of it. But if it is a seed, and if there is a harvest, must not the increase be as with every other kind of sowing and reaping?
4. The certainty of the reaping. Other harvests sometimes fail. Too dry or too rainy a season, a strong wind brushing off the flower when it is in bloom, or a storm when the corn is all but ripe, may deprive the husbandman of his harvest. In some cases, in a bad season, you will see sowing that has had little or no reaping. The straw is uncut. It was not worth cutting. It is left to rot on the ground. But in regard to the sowing to the flesh and to the Spirit, God says "we shall reap." "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The seed may lie a long time in the ground, but it is still there, it is not dead, And when it does grow, its growth is sometimes very slow and gradual. "First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." It sometimes looks as if it would never come to anything. But God's word stands pledged, alike as regards the good and the evil, that failure there shall be none: "Shall reap."
(J. H. Wilson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.