Monday, January 25, 2010

Galatians Journal: Chapter 6, verse 7

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Here is one of the most fundamental yet most misunderstood principles in the Kingdom of God, and of life generally. Verses 7 and 8 of Galatians 6 sum up the practical applications of everything Paul discussed back in chapter 5. Indeed, this is one of the most useful and practical life lessons in all of the scriptures.

“Do not be deceived” A powerful warning! Obviously, Paul wouldn’t have offered this statement if deception wasn’t a major issue in this area. Its also in the form of a command – we need to be extra careful to guard against being deceived, against allowing ourselves to be fooled, or even fooling ourselves in this area. The Greek verb for “deceive” is a word that was often used to describe heresy or leading people away from the right path. There is an intentional element to “deception” here. I have often viewed deception, or becoming deceived, as a passive concept. Its something that happens to you when you don’t realize, such as the concept Paul seems to present back in Galatians 3:1, when he calls the Galatians “foolish” and asks the rhetorical question, “who has bewitched you?” But here, the verb use indicates willfulness. We willingly allow ourselves to believe the lie that we will not reap what we sow. To be blunt, this is evil, and if we have allowed ourselves to fall into this trap, we must repent.

“God cannot be mocked.” The King James version translates “cannot be” as “is not.” I understand what the NIV translators wanted to convey here, and that truth is present in the original language—nothing we can do can truly serve to mock the one true God. But the original language as translated in the KJV puts the action squarely upon God. Its not just that God cannot be mocked – He won’t allow it! The word “mocked” here literally means to “turn up your nose,” or to sneer, as one would turn away from something that smelled bad, or a show of total disapproval. It is showing disdain, or having an apparent devotion to God that is mere pretense, or words not backed up by action, or the willful setting aside of God’s precepts. Its playing games with the grace and mercy of the one true God. If you put these first two phrases together in context what Paul is saying to all of us is this – You can’t fool God, and we are fools if we think we can. We inevitably delude ourselves if we think we can even try to pull one over on God. God will not allow that to happen. He won’t tolerate it. How will he expose these efforts on our part to “fool him?,” this delusion, this deception in our lives? Through the principle of sowing and reaping.

“a man reaps what he sows” The ancient world was more familiar with agricultural concepts than we are today, because the average person either grew at least a portion of his own food, or had to deal directly with those that did in order to survive. The Old Testament is filled with these kind of references, and Paul’s proverbial use of this imagery would have been quite familiar to those acquainted with Jewish traditions.

For example:

Job 4:8 “those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.”

Proverbs 22:8 “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble”

Hosea 8:7 “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”

Hosea 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love”

Thus, Paul was even stopping the Judiazers in their tracks, appealing to an important part of both the spiritual and ethnic tradition of the Jewish people. Of course, the agrarian nature of Greek society would have made this appropriate, too.

Another important aspect deeply connected to the warning about deception and mockery is the concept of the original word translated as “reaps.” The original Greek implies if a man sows a particular kind of seed, he reap that kind of seed, and ONLY that kind of seed. This is how God refuses to be mocked – He will not allow us to reap something we did not sow.

The spiritual principle follows the physical one. What is true for the farmer is true for the follower of Christ. Paul will explain this spiritual principle in the next verse. But if you plant corn, you won’t get potatoes. If you plant wheat, you won’t get apples. If you bury garbage on your land, there will be a stench.

And one of the principles that needs to be understood is the concept of eventuality. This is where the willful deception discussed earlier particularly comes in. All seed, of all types, looks the same to the casual observer after you’ve planted it in the field. Its underground – invisible to the naked eye. You can ask me what I’ve planted, and I can announce, “Why, I’ve planted corn of course!,” when I’ve actually planted thorns and thistles. You can’t see what I’ve planted. It will take time for the seed to grow. But whatever has been planted, it will eventually grow, especially if the field is tended and watered regularly by continued behavior. What we “sow” will eventually come to light. God guarantees it!

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