An Exploration of Galatians: God is not Mocked
Galatians 6:6-7; Acts 5:1-11; Luke 8:4-8 - We reap what we sow and we should sow into the teaching of the Word.
”The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.“
Galatians 6:6-7 NASB1995
There are two important concepts in these next two verses in Galatians 6. In verse 6, Paul asks those who are taught the word to share all good things with the one who teaches the Word. In essence, Paul wants those who are bringers of the Word to have something given to them in response for bearing that responsibility to teach the Word. Pastors and essential church staff should be compensated for their efforts and also have feedback on how those efforts are bringing His kingdom to Earth (“good things” can include accolades in addition to earthly resources for living). Our church recommends tithing (10% of income) as a basic contribution amount and encourages us to be generous givers above that amount.
For Heaven on Wheels, I’m certainly not a pastor and Steve and I would never dream of charging for these devotionals (other than donations which we pass on to Christian charities) as we are doing fine financially, but we would like the “good thing” brought back to us of having people share what we write with others and give us feedback. I am content to write to an audience of one or two, but perhaps more people can learn about the Lord through our efforts and we can learn from those readers.
Enduring Word has an excellent explanation of this verse:
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches: In this context of caring for one another, Paul instructs those who are taught to support (share in all good things) those who teach them.
To share in all good things has the idea focused on financial support, but not limited to it. “Of the variety of interpretations of Paul’s words here the most common is also the most likely: this takes share in the sense of active giving and all good things in the sense of physical goods (Luke 1:53; 12:18-19; 16:25).” (Ronald Fung)
J.B. Lightfoot translates the sense of this: “I spoke of bearing one another’s burdens. There is one special application I would make of this rule. Provide for the temporal needs of your teachers in Christ.”
Passages like this are important, yet can be awkward for the preacher. Martin Luther wrote, “These passages are all meant to benefit us ministers. I must say I do not find much pleasure in explaining these verses. I am made to appear as if I am speaking for my own benefit.”
“The right relationship between teacher and taught, or minister and congregation, is one of koinonia, ‘fellowship’ or ‘partnership’. So Paul writes: ‘Let him who is taught the word share (koinoneito) all good things with him who teaches.’” (John Stott). It isn’t payment; it is sharing.
This is a basic, though sometimes neglected spiritual principle. Those who feed and bless you spiritually should be supported by you financially. Paul repeated this principle in several other places. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? (1 Corinthians 9:11). Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17). If you trust them with your spiritual health, you should also trust them to steward the gifts of God’s people (Luke 16:11).
“I have often wondered why all the apostles reiterated this request with such embarrassing frequency… We have come to understand why it is so necessary to repeat the admonition of this verse. When Satan cannot suppress the preaching of the Gospel by force, he tries to accomplish his purpose by striking the ministers of the Gospel with poverty.” (Martin Luther)
It is a fact that there have been a few mega church preachers in recent times who have extorted excessive compensation from their congregations and used those funds for fancy houses, cars and flashy clothing rather than growing their ministries and caring for the poor. But it is also a fact that the job of preaching and running a church is almost entirely dependent on the generosity of the people in the congregation.
We have seen extraordinary generosity in the church we attend as it has grown through its mission to have many churches planted worldwide (the first in Latin America - Mexico City - is coming together in a way that can only be described as miraculous). Even the Apostles had networks of supporters who gave what they could to grow the church. Humans, including Pastors, have to eat, have shelter and have at least a minimal amount of clothing, plus there may be families to support, so there is nothing shameful about this verse (and the other ones like it) advocating sharing with those who teach the Word.
Verse 7 tells us to not be deceived, for God is not mocked. We reap what we sow. In the commentary I read for this devotional, this verse usually has two meanings:
First, the more narrow meaning is a direct follow-on to verse 6, telling believers to not be deceived because God is not mocked; do not fail to sow into the ministry of the Lord if you believe in it and are a regular churchgoer, but more importantly, do not lie about your commitment. This makes me think of the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:
”But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.
The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.“
Acts 5:1-11 NASB1995
Ananias and Sapphira were not punished because they held back a portion of the proceeds of the land they sold. The land belonged to them and they could do with it what they wished (keep the land, sell it, keep all of the proceeds, or donate part or all of the proceeds to the early church). They were punished in this extreme way because they made it look like they were donating the entire amount of the sale when they held some back by mutual agreement and by trying to deceive Peter and the other apostles. If you look at the end of chapter 4 in Acts, you can see that many were extremely generous, giving all to the church. So these two wanted to keep something for themselves, but the main point is that they were deceitful.
In fact, their deception was immediately seen by Peter and their punishment by God was most severe. God is indeed loving, but He knows our hearts and is also holy and hates sin, deception and hypocrisy. This was a warning to the early believers and, because they died after Peter called them out, it helped establish Peter’s authority over the church.
Of course, there is a broader, second view to this verse and one that has more power than just honestly and generously sowing into the church. This explanation by J. R. Miller (a Presbyterian minister and writer) from a sermon in 1896 is superb; this was found on Precept Austin and here is an excerpt. A link to the entire sermon can be found in the footnotes:
We are not done with life—when we die! We shall meet our acts and words and influences again. "Do not be deceived! God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap!" Galatians 6:7. He shall reap the same that he sows—and he himself shall be the reaper! We go on carelessly, never dreaming that we shall see our seeds again, or have anything more to do with them. Then some day we come upon an ugly plant growing somewhere; and when we ask, "What is this vile plant?" The answer comes, "I am one of your plants. You dropped the seed which grew into me!" We must beware what we do. We shall have to eat the fruit—that grows from our sowing and planting!
There are many phases of this truth. Jesus said, "With what measure you mete—it shall be measured to you again." A man who is cruel—reaps cruelty. A man who is merciful—finds mercy. David unsheathed the sword in wrong against a subject—and the sword departed not from his house forever. He dishonored the happy home of another—and his own home was dishonored. Paul was a persecutor—and persecution followed him until it smote him to death.
The seed that we sow in others, sooner or later comes back again to our own bosom. What we sow—that we reap!
We cannot sin against others, hurting them only—and receiving no hurt to ourselves. We are not merely sowers of seed in other lives; but while we are scattering the seed in the field of our neighbor, we are sowing also in our own field. There are two harvests. He who corrupts another life—makes his own life more corrupt than before. The tempter may cause the fall and ruin of another soul—but the evil in himself has become more evil in his doing so.
Every good thing we do, strengthens the good that is in us;
and every wrong thing makes the wrong in us more dominant.
We have thousands of choices in a day. We can sow good in each of those choices by helping others, supporting our teachers of the faith, modeling the fruit of the Spirit, giving others the benefit of the doubt rather than overreacting and being suspicious, praying for our enemies, and looking to our Lord and His Word for guidance. Or we can sow poorly, by ignoring a person with a need, by not supporting teachers of the faith, by immediately reacting in anger to a word or comment or a bad driver, by not praying regularly or certainly not praying for our enemies, or by not diving into His Word regularly. Then we will reap what we sow. I sowed poorly for many years and am now reaping a noxious weed through many regrets and loneliness because I was a “difficult person”.
Jesus told us about sowing quite effectively in the Parable of the Sower:
”When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”“
Luke 8:4-8 NASB1995
Finally, a word about God not being mocked. I used to do this in my wilderness wandering years of thinking I was an atheist. It is terrifying to me now that I actually laughed in the face of the Almighty and I have repented mightily. But, sadly, God is mocked more and more in this world. Recently, I was reading an excellent essay on the Facebook feed of a group called Intellectual Takeout on how atheism leads to nihilism. This non-profit is focused on Christian belief and truth and also explores other topics through that perspective. The article had hundreds of downright nasty comments from non-believers (their site administrators need to monitor comments more effectively).
Knowing the types of people that are non-believing or who call themselves “secular humanists” (remember, I’ve been a member of some of their groups), I can attest that they really do nothing of worth other than find ways to mock God and denigrate believers, whether it is through hunting for articles on social media about faith and littering the comments sections with ugliness or writing diatribes in their publications against religion (especially Christianity) or advocating public policies that marginalize or punish people of faith and could go so far, if they have enough power behind them, to ban certain faiths. They sow no good works, only dissension and hatred. They don’t support or sponsor any charities to help others (at least I never saw any indication that they did). Their mocking (“Invisible Sky God, Flying Spaghetti Monster” are two of the favorite names they call God) makes one cringe, especially when one considers the infinite power of the Almighty. I have stumbled on a new technique now for these lost souls rather than be frustrated and respond to them, risking sin: I pray for them, fervently, in my intercessory prayers!!
I end with this great little homily by Samuel Smiles
Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
My next devotional examines Galatians 6:8-10 - Do not lose heart in doing good!
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord: Today I pray to you the beautiful hymn by Kate Wilkinson “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” (also found on Precept Austin):
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.
May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The complete sermon from J. R. Miller can be found at this link: Grace Gems
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin, can be found Here.