Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Galatians Journal: Chapter 6, verse 9

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

This verse closes the discussion on sowing and reaping, emphasizing the “principle of eventuality” discussed previously in connection with Galatians 6: 7 and 8. The analogy to farming is a universal principle – once a seed is planted, it takes time to grow – sometimes a very, very long time. After the ominous warnings of the earlier verses about not being deceived and mocking God, Paul wants to leave us encouraged. The word for “weary” here is a powerful word – meaning utterly spiritless. Other translations render this word as “lose heart,” “faint,” or “grow weary.” It implies being worn down to the point of hopelessness – it could be utter despair or just defeated resignation -- surrendering as the defeated foe. Paul is encouraging the believers. Life is tough, and the circumstances of the world’s systems will wear us down. That “seed” we’ve sown in the Spirit, at the Spirit’s leading and command, may look like it might never bear fruit. In fact, in the very same ground we planted that seed, we might see a product of sowing to the “sinful nature, making it look like things are working in reverse. (See Matthew 13:24-30, the parable of the weeds).

The word translated as “doing good” is also a very powerful word. It implies the concept of creation and building – to produce something, to fashion, to form, to construct. It is used to describe an author or artist creating something. It implies taking raw materials and creating something useful. One meaning is to render a single product in the context of many or to make one of anything. Its like an artisan, making a hand crafted product. She may produce many of whatever she is making, but she’ll still produce them one at a time. The original language implies that this work is noble and worthy. Not necessarily highly skilled, but the best work a person can offer.

The King James Version translates this as “well doing,” and the word for “well” is an adjective describing the work that is also a very powerful word. In other places in the New Testament, the same word is translated as “good,” “better,” or “honest.” It literally means “the best.” Other similes that this word could be translated as include beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, or admirable. It’s a word the ancient Greeks used to praise physical beauty. It also means “genuine” – the real deal, approved by those who are in the know. It means “precious,” as in valuable, like gold or diamonds. The word was often used to show a connection to the names of men who were known because of their position in life, or their special competency or experience – in other words, endorsed by those who know what they’re doing.

There are two kinds of endorsements we’re familiar with in the modern media. One is the advertising endorsement, where a company will hire a celebrity to endorse its product, hoping to connect the popularity of the person to draw attention to what is being sold. There isn’t necessarily a connection between the expertise of the celebrity and the product – but the position of that person draws the attention. Tiger Woods advertises a particular brand of automobile – he has no particular expertise in cars, but his popularity brings attention to the auto maker. Or, you can have a non-commercial endorsement made by someone whose position in life draws attention to the issue. President Reagan liked to have a particular brand of jelly beans available in a jar on his desk, and when that fact was made public, the sales of that brand increased exponentially. The First Lady will wear a particular designer’s dress for the inaugural, and that designer will become the man of the hour. It’s the connection to someone great that makes the difference. While this word means that, if you go deeper, there is more. When a celebrity or someone in a high position connects to the product or work based not just on position, but expertise, and then the endorsement really means something. Tiger Woods can endorse a car, but if he endorses a particular make of golf club, the endorsement means more, because Tiger Woods is such a great golfer. The President of the United States can tell us what kind of candy he prefers, but if he endorses a person for a job well done or because of his competency as a civil servant, it means more because of the President’s preeminent position. This word here in this verse means more like the latter.

It also implies that which is honorable, a purity in heart and life, affecting others in an agreeable manner.

“at the proper time, we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up” Paul is simply and plainly stating the principle of eventuality. The people of a primarily agricultural society were more than familiar with the concept of “harvest time.” Farmers plant in the spring, and then harvest in the fall – it takes time. But there is an expectation that eventually the crops will grow, and we will reap a reward. Paul is assuring us and encouraging us to wait on the Lord. When we sow to the Spirit, when we labor and craft something “good,” it takes not just effort, but a lot of time before we will see results, let alone a final product. But it WILL happen – “God cannot be mocked.” The principle of sowing and reaping is a reality, not just when we sow to the sinful nature, but when our efforts contribute to the furthering of God’s Kingdom. Weariness as explained here obviously can lead to a sense of hopelessness, of giving up. But the harvest time will come – it’s a promise!!

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