Every year I get a little surprise in my garden. I never know where to expect that surprise or what it will be. But time and again, I get a vegetable or herb that will simply spring forth from seed that somehow survived the winter and simply grew on its own without my having sown …
In the last week or two, you may have noticed many topics on this blog about sowing, harvesting or even gardening comments within completely unrelated blogs. I’ve obviously been thinking a lot about sowing, seed-time (which is different from sowing alone – it is a season), reaping, and harvesting.
I’ve also taken note of all the discussions about percentages of population that have been coming up lately: the 99% vs. the 1%, the 53% vs. the 47% and so on. Makes my head spin to try to figure all that out and none of it really matters to me anyway. There is a more important percentage that I am aiming to change: 80% vs. 20%.
At my church, we just finished a series on giving, called Wii Give. Kind of a catchy title, reminds me of playing Wii Sports with the kids. But how do sowing and reaping relate to giving? Good thing you asked.
You’ve heard it said, “A man reaps what he sows.” That comes from Scripture. It can be found in the letter from the Apostle Paul to the Galatians (6:7). But, I find the before and after of that verse to be quite fascinating. Look at it within context:
“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
I find it interesting that the verse immediately preceding the famous “A man reaps what he sows” that everyone quotes tells us to not be deceived and to not attempt to mock God.
How do we mock God? The verse afterward tells us how: by sowing to please our sinful nature and not to please the Spirit.
This is clearly addressed to believers who have had an issue with doing things that felt good to the flesh, but that brought displeasure to the Spirit.
It is also clear from the verse following that some in this group were trying to do the right things (sowing to please the Spirit), but were becoming weary. Maybe they realized they were part of the 20% of the church that volunteers, gives and serves the rest of the church. This is called the Pareto Principle and is generically true in the church AND in the corporate world (maybe your particular church is different, if so congratulations!). It seems that about 80% of us are just punching the clock, sleep-walking through life, and MISSING OUT on the best part of life: GIVING.
So, how do we sow to please the Spirit? The first verse above gives us a clue: we must share all good things with our instructors. Now before you think this is just about money, it isn’t. Giving our finances is the first step, but it is the easiest, the least personal and least impactful “good thing” that we can sow. In other words, giving finances is step one.
We must go beyond a merely transactional gift and learn to GIVE OURSELVES.
Giving ourselves looks very different from just giving money. Giving money involves us putting something in an envelope or a basket, handing it to someone else and walking away thinking we’ve done this great thing. I’m not minimizing giving money, but we can’t stop there and think we are done.
Giving ourselves involves putting our lives into that basket, taking it to our “instructors” (pastors or other leaders), serving sacrificially without regard to our own benefit, and being thankful God is using us to advance His Kingdom.
Giving ourselves means encouraging our pastors and leaders, praying for them faithfully, and honoring them in front of others.
Giving ourselves, as the last verse above tells us, involves doing good to all people, but especially to those who belong to the body of believers. Giving ourselves means serving others: in the community, in our neighborhood, at our workplace, and in our church. It means praying for them, helping them when they need help, ministering the Word of God to them, and encouraging them.
Giving ourselves is WAY HARDER than giving money, takes far greater effort, requires more sacrifice and involves relating with others much more than just giving money. But the return is far greater.
Those who give of themselves will reap a harvest of abundance, well beyond the financial return of an investment of dollars made in the Kingdom. Look at the rewards:
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ – from the Gospel of Matthew (25:12)
Jesus is our Master and when we see Him face-to-face, we have the opportunity to hear these words from Him. One day, will Jesus allow you to be in charge of REAL responsibilities with REAL opportunities? It seems that in the story, the master gave a promotion to the one who had stewarded his gifts well. Are you stewarding your gifts well and giving them away to the body of believers and to those who need to know Jesus?
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” – from 2 Corinthians 9:10
Paul is telling us that God will provide us with seed for sowing, bread for eating AND a harvest for later seed sowing as well as a harvest of righteousness. Notice we are not given seed for eating or bread for sowing. We must be careful to sow what God is providing for us to sow – and not selfishly keep it for ourselves. This is a financial and spiritual benefit when we sow good seed in the Kingdom of God. Maybe you are a gifted painter. How can you use those gifts to bless others? Maybe some of your income (modern-day seed) is meant to be given to someone else to meet a need?
“The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.” – King Solomon in Proverbs 11:18
“He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” – King Solomon again, Proverbs 19:17
King Solomon tells us over and over in Proverbs (these are just two references), that we will gain a reward for doing what is good and righteous. He tells us that this reward is financial and spiritual. We also see that wickedness gives us deceptive wages. We think we are making all this money or have all this talent and keeping it for ourselves, but we are deceived if we think that. It will catch up to us one day.
So, do NOT be deceived, for God will not be mocked. We do reap what we sow. And we have countless opportunities to give of ourselves – our time, finances, talents and gifts. Based on the scriptures, we would be really stupid to not do that, even if all our friends are in the 80% that are sitting on the sidelines. Get into the game with the 20% and find the reward of giving for your life.
I don’t know about you, but trying to mock God is not where I want to be. So, I will give, I will serve and I will sow. I will be part of the 20% and urgently try to convince others to join me. What will you do?