As we move towards the end of Paul’s letter to the churches at Galatia, he gave one last exhortation on living and walking by the Spirit. Continuing on his agricultural imagery from Galatians 5:22-24, he proceeded on how do we actually produce such fruit of the Spirit. So he use the imagery of sowing and reaping in Galatians 6:6-10. Paul’s main point is that we are to sow in what will bring us to eternal life. Namely, sow in the Spirit by doing good to all people, even more to those who are of the household of faith, especially to the ones who teach the word. The focus of verses 1-5 is on the spiritual, the mature, probably the ones who teach. But here in verses 6-10 the focus is on the ones being taught by the word of God through preaching. Both are from what we would call the Law of Christ, that is to love one another.
At first glance, verse 6 seems to be out of place in the immediate context. Some interpreters think that it belongs to the preceeding verses, yet others have argued that it belongs to what follows. I agree with the latter. We can see this by arranging the structure of the text and see if it would makes sense logically. So to know how verse 6 fit within this context I will start with verse 7. Paul tells the Galatians that they are not to be deceived. The sense of the word here is to be self deceived. And the reason he gave is that God is not mocked. In other words, what Paul is saying is that there are people who think that they can get away with something, but in reality, they’re just deceiving themselves. Contextually this has to do with what they do with their resources. Were they investing on things that matter most or not? So the grounds that he gave is the law of sowing and reaping. You cannot mock God with your pretense of spirituality, because He knows what you sow, and what you will eventually reap. This is true of the natural world, and this is true spiritually.
Then Paul explains further, by way of contrast, how does the law of sowing and reaping applies spiritually. In verse 8a he said, “The one who sow to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption.” Flesh here refers to what is worldy, temporal and sinful. This is sowing to our own sinful natures and the result is corruption. In paganism, the greeks attribute this law to Nemesis. The one who will catch up on you for retribution. To some they attribute it to the law of karma. What goes up must come down, and what goes around, comes around. It is more impersonal. But Paul is telling us that this is not due to some other gods of the pantheon or some impersonal force. This is due to the one and only living God. Just as God created the natural world with order and laws, so too in terms of morality and spirituality. This is always true universally and absolutely. No one can escape it. God’s justice is served either on the cross or in hell. The reason I say that is because corruption is referring to eternal damnation, for it is being contrasted with eternal life in the second half. Paul said in verse 8b, “But to those who sow to the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” So this is not just the temporary consequences of our sins. This will lead us to destruction and hell. Therefore we must take Paul’s warning seriously. Paul’s imagery is not that far from Christ’s imagery about investing your treasure. Jesus said that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. So for Paul, to where you sow, from it you will reap. Therefore this is not a return to the law of Moses. This is a heart issue. So investing or sowing to one’s own flesh shows that you are headed for destruction, but if you are sowing and investing to that which is spiritual, it is evident that you are headed for eternal life.
Now Paul concludes in verses 9-10 that we are not to grow weary of doing good, and the reason that he gave is not only that no one can escape from the law of sowing and reaping, but also, even though there are times when we can’t immediately see its benefits, we are told to not grow weary because it pays off. He said, for in due season we will reap, and the premise is if we do not give up.
Then in verse 10 Paul tells us that we are to do good to everyone, and even more so to those who are of the household of faith.
So we return now to verse 6. In light of the logic of the text how does verse 6 functions within the context? What Paul is saying here is to invest on or sow on what matters most. Namely that which will lead us to eternal life. And one of God’s primary means in bringing us to final salvation is through the faithful teaching of the word by a qualified teacher or elder week in and week out. We are to lift their burdens by providing for them, otherwise, they will become distracted by the cares of this world from watching over our souls. Distracted away from preparing a biblical sermon, and therefore we will reap a sermon that is not well prepared. Now I think this interpretation is not a stretch. The closest parallel that deals with sowing and reaping in Paul’s epistles is in 1 Corinthians 9:11. He said; “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” The answer of course is not at all. It is only right that we provide for them and help them because what they’re doing is of eternal significance. Therefore we can say that what Paul has in mind with the imagery of sowing and doing good to those who belong to the household of faith are those who faithfully preach the word of God.
This is what Paul meant by loving your neighbor as yourself. The spiritual leaders must take the burden of the ones being led, and vice versa, we must help those who teach the word, so that they can lead us properly. Therefore sowing to the Spirit is investing in all our resources; effort, strength, time, money, skills, man-power to that which will cultivate a soil where love for one another flourishes. On the other hand, sowing to one’s own flesh is to invest our resources to that which will cultivate a soil where sexual sins, idolatry, and social strife will be abundant.
Therefore brethren sow in what will bring us to eternal life. Namely sow in the Spirit by doing good to all people, even more so to those who are of the household of faith, especially to the ones who teach the word.