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What Does ‘Reap What You Sow’ Mean?

What Does ‘Reap What You Sow’ Mean?

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

Let me begin with what sowing and reaping are not. They're not “karma.” Even though the concept of karma is loosely based on reaping and sowing.

Karma’s origins are in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and it is defined as the sum of a person’s actions in this life and previous lives that decide the fate of their future existences.

The concept of “sowing and reaping” is immensely better than “karma.” The sowing part is not just a duty that I must perform. There is the nourishment that accompanies doing the will of God and helping other people. There is a joy in finishing good works for the Lord (John 4:34) and that joy isn’t dependent on the harvest that may come later. 

Reap What You Sow isn't Multiple Lives

The first problem that I have with the idea of karma is that it is deeply connected to the belief of each person having multiple earthly lives. This simply doesn’t match up with the Bible. We get one life that feels as short as a vapor and vanishes quickly (James 4:14). One short life to either accept God’s loving provision or reject it. Therefore, I must be very careful about how I live and make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Reap What You Sow isn't Karma

The next problem is the history of karma. India’s caste system lists many poor people in their “untouchable” category because they must have done something very bad in this life or in a previous life and therefore deserve poor living conditions. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa attempted to fight the atrocities of this system by showing that there is dignity in every human life. This bottom of the caste category means that they are unworthy of help. On the other hand, Jesus came to help ALL—especially the sick, poor, and downcast.

Reap What You Sow isn't Tit for Tat Mentality

Another problem that I have with karma is that it is often used in a tit for tat way. If I do this, I’ll get this other thing of equal value. I have to do this good thing and I’ll receive equal to it. It’s like I’m saying, “If I do this, God will owe me.” That’s not how God set up the world to work. He doesn’t owe me anything.

Reap What You Sow isn't Revenge Mentality

Lastly, a lot of people use the word “karma” as a revenge mentality. The word is screamed out when you see someone who did you wrong in the past have a similar thing done to them. You’re glad that they were put in their place. Revenge has NO place in God’s kingdom! God’s kingdom is all about repentance and forgiveness. 

Of course, there’s also justice, and sowing and reaping also include sowing bad things and getting consequences in return. The Bible says that “whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken” (Proverbs 22:8). But even in those consequences, there is much opportunity for repentance and forgiveness.

God’s Solution of Sowing and Reaping

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5). God can even bring joy out of dire, even tragic, events. God’s love is so much greater than karma.

In God’s economy, things are hardly ever tit for tat. In some moments, I plant but never really see the harvest, at least not harvest that is directly related. In other moments, I receive a harvest that I didn’t plant (John 4:37-38)! God’s kingdom is a world of walking by faith not sight. Faith that God will bring good things from all that I plant even when I don’t see it. And faith that there will be much grace even when I am not able to plant.

Reaping and sowing are all about blessings and consequences. I seek to live in obedience more and more by sowing good things and then I reap other good things, but not necessarily in the same field. I often sow in one field and reap in another. Always remember that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). So, go ahead and sow generously and even lavishly. There is always some kind of reward. Some rewards are instantaneous and easy to spot. Others take a little more introspection to see but they are there all the same.

Don’t Forget Grace and Mercy

Then, there’s grace! Karma believers don’t often take grace into account. God’s law of sowing and reaping includes much grace. You can learn from the good things you do, and you can also learn from the wrong things you do. You can learn from successes as well as mistakes. You can do better each day as you grow in obedience. Dire circumstances don’t mean that you deserve to stay down.

Sowing good deeds can give me benefits. But I can also receive benefits even when I don’t deserve it (grace). I can also receive benefits, lessons, and second chances even when I do wrong things (mercy). God is extremely generous with both grace and mercy!

Karma leads to doing things to earn other things. But God prefers that I do good things as a gift out of the gratitude that I feel for His love.

We get the opportunity to reap what we sow. We often reap more than we sow. Sometimes, we even reap later than we sow. And we even reap some things that we never sowed.

God always brings many blessings—both deserved and undeserved. And actually, even the ones we work for are undeserved. God is much better than we deserve!

Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write devotional articles and stories that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk.com. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at www.jenniferheeren.com.

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