Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sowing and Reaping Reassessed – 6:6-10

I’m probably gonna catch some flak man
But ima swallow this pill like pac-man
Some of these folks won’t tell the truth
too busy tryina get them racks man
Church tryina rob my paychecks
Choir members probably having gay sex
Pastor manipulating, hurting women
I wonder what he’s gonna say next
Bookstore pimpin them hope books
Like God don’t know how broke looks
And tellin me that I’m gonna reap a mil
If I sow into these low crooks
Plus I know ol’ girl a freak, now how she sing the solo
I walked into church with a snapback and they tellin’ me that’s a no-no
That’s backwards and I lack words for these actors called pastors
All these folks is hypocrites and that’s why I ain’t at church.[1]
And if there’s ever been a song written by a Christian artist that truly made me uncomfortable, it would be this one. Especially the line about pastors. The first time I heard it, I felt dirty for listening to it. The pastors that I grew up in the faith under for the first three years of my Christian life were not at all actors. They were some of the realest people I’ve ever known. However, if I’m being totally honest, I’ve turned to these lyrics several times in the past three years in times of anger and frustration to say, “This is what is wrong with the American church.” However, when my ipod played this song in the past week, the heavy emphasis on money, and the specific words “reap” and “sow” got me thinking. In addition, a news article I found on Facebook this week explained that the sixth of the top reasons why 59% of millennials have left the church is because of “distrust and misallocation of resources.” The author explains, “Over and over we’ve been told to ‘tithe’ and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church, but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions, for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.”[2] While I don’t agree with the solutions proposed by the article, the point stands that the common, “Give your money and God will bless you,” teaching has done a ton of damage. I say this up front, because today’s passage has Paul talking about sowing and reaping. Let’s look at the context.
Paul writes in Galatians 5:16-6:10,[3]I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity,  idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions,  envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,  gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.  We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.  Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else.  For each person will have to carry his own load.  The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher.  Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,  because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.
And before tying it all together, let me just explain one thing I’m happy about from the past three years: learning how to properly interpret Scripture. Three years ago, I would have said, “The beginning talks about bearing in love, and this talks about sowing and reaping; I’ll tell what the text says without keeping them connected.” However, that’s faulty Bible study. Paul wrote this whole letter. From the first word to the last, it’s one complete argument. We can’t chop it and take what we want where we want and call it exegesis. We have to read all of it as a unit.
So we’ve finally come to the end of this super long section. Paul has proved that the Law is fulfilled through love for one another, but also that the flesh wars against the Spirit. He’s described the results of following the flesh and the results of following the Spirit, and he’s commanded that believers bear with one another in love and it was shown how that fulfills the Spirit’s fruit and successfully wars against the flesh. Today, Paul wants to show us how we bear with those who teach us the Word, and in so doing shows us another way to resist the desires of the flesh, and encourages pastors to remain faithful in their ministry.
Paul begins in verse 6 by saying, “The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher.” John MacArthur writes, “The seemingly obvious interpretation, and the one that is most common, is that Paul is exhorting congregations to pay their pastors fairly. But although that principle is taught in the New Testament . . . it does not seem to be what Paul is teaching here.”[4] However, I must lovingly disagree. Especially when Calvin, Luther, and another modern commentator all see monetary giving being spoken of here. Cole states, “It is, as often, difficult to decide whether this is the final verse of this section or the opening verse of the next. As usual, it will be best to take it as a ‘bridge verse’, whichever group it is considered as falling under. . . . When Paul says koinōneito, share, or ‘have fellowship’, it is a Christian euphemism for ‘make a financial contribution’.”[5]
Now, lest I dismiss MacArthur too quickly, his explanation must be discussed, because it is helpful to understand the full meaning of our text today. MacArthur sees verse 6 as going with verses 1-5, and wants to equate “the teacher” of verse 6 with one of “the spiritual ones,” in verse 1. He helpfully explains that the word translated “share” in verse 6 is commonly translated “fellowship,” and the word translated “good things” speaks primarily of things that have “spiritual or moral excellence,” and thus “the spiritual Christian who has picked up and held up his fallen brother also builds him up in the word, in whose good things they fellowship together.”[6] Thus MacArthur sees the spiritual believer and the recovering believer as being able to share fellowship together in the good fruit that results from the recovering believer heeding the teaching of the spiritual believer.
I take the time to explain that because it helps add an extra layer to the following verses, even if we understand fellowship primarily as “monetary support.” In verses 7-8, Paul explains the spiritual truth behind his command to share with the teacher. “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,  because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” He starts by commanding them not to be deceived. Paul knows that the flesh wants to hold on to every dollar it is given. He also knows that the flesh wants to isolate itself and not fellowship with other believers. He says you can’t trick God; the law of nature—reaping what you sow—cannot be undermined. If a person refuses fellowship with other believers they will reap from the flesh; if a person hoards every dollar they are given, they will reap from the flesh. God cannot be mocked. I want to give two examples for how this process works in the life of Christianity today: one in the context of the local church and one in the context of the wider Christian world.
First, in the local church we are called to share with those who teach us the word. We share with them by giving our money—tithe/10% is never called for in the New Testament. The model is actually to give until it hurts. Listen to this from Luke 21: “He looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ He said. ‘This poor widow has put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21:1-4). She gave 100%. Paul will connect this act of giving to the Spirit’s manifestation of love in 2 Corinthians 8:8-9, “I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” This is what our giving to the ministry should look like. (And in Galatians 6:6 it is a command.) Since we reap what we sow, the teaching will reflect itself in our lives. If the teaching is all talk and no action, the lives will be all talk and no action. If the teaching is judgmental and degrading, the hearers will become judgmental Pharisees. For this reason, the pastor should teach accurately so the people keep giving. He shouldn’t have to preach one sermon a month on giving to keep people convicted about the need to give; they should do it willingly because he teaches accurately and models it in his own life. In the same way, if a ministry is fruitless, there is no need to sow monetary funds into it to keep it going, especially if it is doctrinally off or failing in the Christian living it produces.
In much the same way, as Christians, we read books written by other Christians. When we do this we are sowing into their ministry, and fellowshipping with them. Since the teaching becomes the living and we reap what we sow, we should not spend time in worthless Christian media. If we do, it will come out in our life. If Christians only purchased biblically sound, gospel centered works, it would spur pastors worldwide to be accurate, biblical, and Christ-centered; and a revival of sorts would take place in the church which could then lead to a revival in the world.
We must sow to the Spirit so that we can reap eternal life and avoid fulfilling the desires of the flesh. We must not sow to the flesh because if we do, we reap corruption, and this is first shown in a lack of assurance of salvation. People—like the majority of millennials today—who avoid church are sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption. I personally believe the biggest problem with millennials is their pride: they can’t take it if someone says they are wrong, and since the first premise of the Gospel is that everyone is wrong, no millennial—or really anyone else—wants to hear it. Thus they avoid the church and put up smokescreens so they can continue to sow to their flesh.
And then in verses 9-10 we see an exhortation to persevere in love for believers—summing up the whole section. “So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.” It is hard work to bear with each other. It is hard to sacrificially give our resources away. It is often very hard to resist the desires of the flesh. However, we must rest in the Spirit and let Him manifest Himself in our lives. The truth is there: we will reap if we don’t give up sowing. This earthly life is the opportunity to sow. Sowing to the Spirit—the sowing we must not give up—is done through bearing with one another, fellowshipping with one another, not hoarding resources from one another, and by resisting the desires of the flesh. We also sow by doing the exact opposite, but that will result in corruption and we must give that up right now.
If your pastor is faithful to the Word and to pointing you toward Christ, give of your resources. Especially if he is a fulltime pastor who is employed by the church. He relies on you for support. If he is taking care of your spiritual needs, you owe it to him to help support him. If you don’t give of your resources, you want to reap corruption from the flesh.
However, if your pastor is not faithful to the Word, you are not sowing to the Spirit by giving to his ministry. Unfaithfulness to the Word—and neglect of the Gospel as presented in Galatians—leads to the unhealthy situation that Paul had to correct in this letter. The reason he’s spent so much time on the difference between the flesh and the Spirit is because legalism and lawlessness both lead to fleshly corruption, and not to the Spirit’s eternal life. If your pastor does not preach the gospel, you will not reap eternal life by giving to him, but rather corruption from the flesh.
It is important to note what Paul says at the end of verse 10. We must work for the good of all, but especially for believers. When millennials are all about causes in the world, that’s great, but when they neglect to come to church because they feel that the church isn’t doing enough for those “out there,” they are missing the point. We—as the church—owe love first and foremost to our own. Only after loving believers to the nth degree are we to show love to the world. And the primary way we’ll show the world love is by telling them they’re wrong and that only in Jesus can they be made right.
Why do you neglect to give to the church? Is it because you don’t belong there because you have yet to be made a part of it by the blood of Jesus? I would plead with you to believe in Him today. Find a church that points you to Him and get involved. Love others well, which includes giving up your resources, and sow to the Spirit for eternal life.
In conclusion, the church has done a lot of damage in the name of “sowing and reaping.” However, that is because they have separated the act of giving from the fruit of living. The teaching is promoted by the giving. The teaching shows its true colors through the living that follows. If you want to live a life of love to God and others, give to teaching that accurately represents who God is. This will lead to eternal life, and is another way in which we win the war against the flesh, walk by the Spirit in freedom, and prove that we are not under Law but rather fulfilling Christ’s Law by bearing with one another in love.
Til next time.
Soli Deo Gloria. Solus Christus.

[1] Lecrae, “Church Clothes,” Church Clothes (Reach Records, 2012).
[2] Sam Eaton, “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why,” Faith It,
[3] 6:6-:10 are bolded because those are what this post is focusing on.
[4] John MacArthur, Galatians, 182.
[5] R. Alan Cole, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Galatians, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2008), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 228.
[6] John MacArthur, Galatians, 182.

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