Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.—Galatians 6:7
I hope I can safely assume that we all understand the Gospel of grace. The Good News is that God loves us far more than we deserve. He sent His Son to earth, and to the cross, to die the death we should have died and give us the gift of eternal life. Our God’s love is unconditional, not something we have to earn. If the message of the Christian faith were that God gives us only what we deserve, it would be a hopeless religion. As it says in Psalm 130:3, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” The Bible teaches clearly that God is kind and gracious, and without this beautiful truth we would be lost.
But as long as we’re clear on that, I hope I can also assume that we all understand that our actions still have consequences. You see, consequences fall into two categories: earthly and eternal. When we talk about the grace of God covering our sin, we are referring primarily to sin’s eternal consequences. Because Jesus died on the cross in my place, I am forgiven, and when I stand before God in judgment I will be clothed in the righteous robes of His Son and be counted clean. But if, for example, I commit murder, and then later while I’m serving a life sentence I repent of that sin and ask God to forgive me, He will, but His forgiveness will not change the fact that I am still in prison. A judge will not reduce my sentence just because I say, “but God has forgiven me!” The pain in the lives of the victim’s family, and my family, will remain unchanged. It still happened, and it still has consequences which the grace of God does not magically erase.
Make sense? What I’m driving at is that it’s possible to celebrate the grace of God and at the same time teach people to make good choices. God will always forgive us when we stray, but the choices we make really matter, and they greatly affect the kind of life we get to live.
Paul told the Galatians that we reap what we sow. The life we live today is built on the foundation we laid in the past. He prefaces this by saying, “God cannot be mocked.” In other words, we don’t get to abuse the grace of God by living carelessly and thinking we will reap something other than what we’ve sown. If you make the foolish choice to jump off of a building, and then ask God to swoop in and catch you, He probably won’t. You’ll hit the ground, and it will hurt. If you abuse your body, you will have poor health. If you waste your money, you won’t have any money. If you’re a self-centered husband or wife, your spouse will learn that they had better look out for their own interests, because you’re not going to do it, and you will reap the selfishness you have sown.
If you’re a critical, legalistic person, people probably won’t be very gracious with you when you stumble. If you don’t put time and energy into cultivating relationships, you’ll be lonely. In every area of life, all the time, we are reaping what we have sown. And we don’t reap what we don’t sow. You can’t spend more time at work and hope it will get you closer to your family. You can’t spend more time on shallow entertainment thinking you will end up closer to God. It just doesn’t work like that.
But there is good news: the principle works both ways. If we sow good things, we get to reap them. So if we are disciplined in practicing the piano, we get to play beautiful music. If we save our money, we will have more money. If we take care of our bodies, we reap physical health. If we spend time in the Word and in prayer, we will know God better. If we are gracious and kind and encouraging to people, people will treat us with that same grace. If we invest our time in caring for others, our life will be full of love. If we give our time and energy to the work of the church, to bringing others to Jesus, our life will be rich and fruitful. If we’re generous, with time or money or energy or anything else, God will be even more generous in rewarding our generosity.
So here is the question: what have you been reaping lately? Do you feel good about it? If so, keep sowing good things! If not, what would you need to sow to start reaping a life you feel good about?
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