Thursday, September 29, 2011

Later and Greater

In Galatians 6:7 Paul says, “You reap what you sow.”  Paul is making an important spiritual point—”If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.”  But “You reap what you sow” is not exactly some deep, profound insight.  It’s actually rather obvious.  Everyone knows that.  If you plant an apple seed, you aren’t going to get an orange tree.  It’s so obvious that I’m not even going to bother with more examples.  The fact that Paul states it, however, means that the Galatians were ignoring this important principle.  They thought that they could live a lifestyle apart from the Spirit and yet reap all the benefits that the Spirit offers.  It didn’t make any sense, and Paul was pointing that out.  “You reap what you sow.”  (You can almost hear Paul adding, “Dummies.”)
This is a basic principle of life.  Jesus spoke to it in different words: “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16)  You reap what you sow.  What comes around goes around.  Garbage in, garbage out.  You are what you eat.  It’s basic.
Now, here’s the thing about reaping: you reap later and greater.
You plant corn and it’s three months before there’s anything to eat.  Plant asparagus and it’s two years before there’s anything on your dinner plate.  Graft an apple branch onto an apple rootstock (the apples we eat don’t come from seeds, they come from grafting) and it can take from 3 to 15 years before you are eating apple pie.  There is no such thing as instant reaping.  It’s always later.
Later is why we so easily give up on doing the right thing. We might do the right thing without seeing the fruit of it for days, weeks, months, years.  Later is why we give up so easily on losing weight or learning to play an instrument. Later is why we question our choices: Why am I being so diligent when nothing seems to be coming from it? Later is why we give up too soon.  Later is also why we look at people who are doing wrong and start to envy their seeming good fortune.  The consequences generally don’t happen immediately.  You always reap later.
You always reap greater too.  It’s disproportionate.  From one kernel of corn comes a stalk with two ears, each full of rows of kernels.  Plant one apple tree, and you get lots and lots of apples.
Greater can be harder, because it works both ways, both positive and negative.  This is the emotional part, because it's not necessarily "fair" in our minds.  It's not commensurate. So a person who has been somewhat irresponsible with his money might say, "I know I haven't been responsible, but I don't deserve this." To that I would say, "You're right." The principle of sowing and reaping doesn't understand fair or just or balance; what is reaped is always greater than what is sown.
Look at it this way: you are home with your family when a guy barges in brandishing a gun.  He threatens your entire family, herds you in the basement, locks the door, and then steals your valuables.  The whole incident takes thirty minutes.  The guy gets caught, is convicted at trial.  Does the judge sentence him to thirty minutes in prison?  A thirty-minute sentence for a thirty-minute crime?  Of course not.  For armed robbery he’s probably going to get more like 15 years.  15 years for a 30-minute crime?  Yes.  You always reap greater than you sow.
It works the other way as well.  For instance, when a regular smoker quits, one year later their excess risk of suffering coronary heart disease has decreased to half the risk of a continuing smoker.   And if they live smoke-free for fifteen years, their risk of coronary heart disease is now comparable to that of people who never smoked a single cigarette. Their risk of dying also is nearly back to the same level as that of non-smokers.  Is that fair?  Who cares!  It’s wonderful!
      If there is any area of your life—your finances, your money, your dating life, your relationship, your professional life—in which you are not where you want to be, chances are you have sown and reaped yourself there in some capacity.  And this is also true if you aren’t where you want to be spiritually.  The good news is that you can start sowing to the Spirit right now, and eventually you will see the fruit of the Spirit in your life.  No one has dug a hole too deep for the Spirit of God.  You may have to come from further back than others, but that just means that your later will be later than others.  But the more you stick with it, the greater your greater will be.
     “If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”
Later and Greater.

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