I sat a small jar of various types of seeds in the middle of each table. None were labeled. Some were obvious. Others, not so much. The ladies began to arrive, laughter and catching up filled the air as they grabbed their coffee and snacks and sat down.
If I were to ask you what type of seed is in the jar on your table what would you say?
This is definitely corn. One table replied.
Peas. Said another.
I think these are lima beans, but they have purple stripes on them!
So, what do you think your harvest will be when you plant them? If you plant corn what do you expect to get in return?
Ummm, corn?, someone answered as if the teacher were trying to trick the student.
And the peas. What about the peas?
Peas of course!
Exactly! In farming or gardening this is an absolute principle. Whatever seed you sow, is exactly what’ll you’ll grow. It doesn’t surprise us when we sow or plant a lima bean seed and get lima beans. Or a piece of corn and get an ear of corn.
Tim Keller says, whatever you sow, you will reap. Though the seed may lie in the ground to no apparent effect for a long time, it will come up. It is not the reaping that determines the harvest, but the sowing. (Galatians for You p.175)
It’s a simple principle for the farmer but it’s not just for the agricultural community. You don’t have to get your hands in the dirt to understand this is a how-to-live-life lesson as well. But what is simple for the farmer seems to be more complex when it comes to applying it to our daily lives. Or so it seems.
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In chapter six of Galatians, Paul uses this simple principle of sowing and reaping in the spiritual realm as well. It’s just as absolute, just as unstoppable.
Earlier in his letter Paul addresses the sarx or sinful heart and lists those things we do to satisfy the darker side of ourselves. Things like repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfying wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (Galatians 5:21 MSG)
Paul warns the Galatian people to not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. He cannot be treated lightly. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction…(Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)
Notice that the “acts of the sinful nature” aren’t all actions; attitudes are just as much over-desires of our sarx.
Before we despair, there is another seed we can sow and grow; that being the fruit of the spirit. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Notice all of these are one fruit, not multiple fruits. John says: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1John 4:20 NIV) Notice that he does not say: If a man loves God but doesn’t love his brother, he is unbalanced. No, he says he is a liar. True love to God (love) is always accompanied by love to others (kindness). If they are not both there, neither are there at all. (Galatians to You by Tim Keller p153)
We can sow the seeds of the sarx and reap the ravage. Or we can sow the fruit of the Spirit and reap the reward. But we can’t do both. At least not at the same time.
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We’ve been planting the garden the past few days. It’s reassuring to know that an okra seed will become okra that I will roll in cornmeal and fry on both sides, a lima seed will become a lima bean. Tomato plants will produce, you guessed it, tomatoes. Green bean seeds in the dirt, green beans off the plants and in my quart jars for winter feasting.
Such a simple principle this sowing and reaping.
So why are we surprised when we…
Sow seeds of hatred and receive hostility.
Sow seeds of blindness and not be able to see.
Sow seeds of deafness and not be able to hear.
Sow seeds of silence and end up with no voice.
Sow seeds of ignorance and refuse to learn.
Sow seeds of hurt and end up with blood on our own hands.
Sow seeds of word spewing and end up with no friends.
Like Paul, I could go on.
Why do we make it so hard?
I find it interesting that the first fruit of the Spirit is love and the opposite of love is not hate as one might expect but rather fear.
But what are we afraid of? Each other? Of getting hurt? Our different skin tones? Our different cultures? Our different opinions? Of being wrong? Of being right? Of having to say we’re sorry? Of getting sick?
The Bible tells us that there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1John 4:18 NIV)
Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Maybe perfect love looks like driving different seeds in the ground. What if we…
Sow seeds of kindness and reap kinship.
Sow seeds of eyes that see and witness the world in high definition color.
Sow seeds of ears that listen and learn that every single one of us has a story.
Sow seeds of conversations and begin to understand.
Sow seeds of wisdom and cultivate knowledge.
Sow seeds of healing and reap reconciliation.
Sow seeds of encouragement and watch people grow.
It’s a simple principle, an absolute principle. I realize it sure seems more complex than this. But we have to start somewhere, right? Casting out fear so we can love begins with casting the right seeds. We are all farmers in this. Whatever seed you sow is exactly what you’ll grow.
Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord and let the light of Your Truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling us to embrace. (Ephesians 1:18 The Voice)