Did you realize that the Bible is like an onion? You can understand it when you initially approach it, yet as you delve deeper and deeper into its contents you see that there is so much more to it than you initially thought. Take, for example this verse:
“For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:8)
Most people who read this verse understand that following our sinful desires is wrong and following God is right, but how do you figure out what “sowing to your flesh” and “reaping corruption” mean, or what “sowing to the Spirit” involves? Well, first of all we are told, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12, 13 NIV) Because studying the Bible isn’t merely an academic endeavor, the first thing we must always do is ask for God’s Spirit to teach us the truth.
Beyond that, there are several methods we can use to try to better understand what a particular verse means. We can read the verse in context. This is particularly helpful if it is part of a story or parable. We can also look up the individual words in a Bible dictionary to to find out the meanings of the original Greek or Hebrew. We could, for example, look up the word translated “corruption” and see that it means “corruption, destroy, perish.” Consulting several different translations to try to get the gist of a particular verse can also be helpful. In the case of today’s verse, we would have:
“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 6:8 NLT)
“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8 NIV)
“If you plant in the field of your natural desires, from it you will gather the harvest of death; if you plant in the field of the Spirit, from the Spirit you will gather the harvest of eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8 GNT)
Once we’ve done our best to try to understand what a verse is saying, we may also be willing to examine what other Christian writers have said about it and consult some commentaries (being careful that we not allow the commentary to overrule the clear meaning of the passage itself). The following is from John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible:
For he that soweth to his flesh;
Not that taking due care of a man’s body, seeking the preservation of its health, providing proper food and raiment for himself, and all necessaries for the good and support of his family, is to be called sowing to his flesh, nor is he to be called a carnal sower; but he is such an one that pampers his flesh, gratifies and indulges the lusts of it, who minds the things of the flesh, lives after it, and does the works of it, who spends his substance in a luxurious way upon himself and family; or whose whole bent, and study, and employment, is to increase his worldly riches, to aggrandize himself and posterity, to the neglect of his own soul, the interest of religion, the poor of the church, and ministers of the Gospel:
shall of the flesh reap corruption;
shall by such carnal methods procure for himself, in this world, nothing but what is corruptible, as silver and gold be, and such treasure as moth and rust corrupt; such substance as will not endure, but is perishing, and may be by one providence or another taken from him; so that all his care in sowing comes to nothing, and is of no advantage to himself, nor to his posterity; see ( Haggai 1:4-6 ) , and shall fall into the pit of corruption, and be punished with everlasting destruction, and die the second death in the world to come.
But he that soweth to the Spirit;
not his own, but the Spirit of God; or that soweth spiritual things, that minds and savours the things of the Spirit, lives in the Spirit, and walks in the Spirit; that lays out his worldly substance in promoting spiritual things, in encouraging the spiritual ministers of the word, in supporting the interest of spiritual religion, in relieving the poor of Christ’s churches, in contributing to the spread of the Gospel, and the administration of the word and ordinances in other places, as well as where he is more immediately concerned:
shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting;
in the use of such spiritual means, though not as meritorious, or as causes, he shall attain to, and enjoy eternal happiness in the other world; or of, and by the Spirit of God, by whose grace and strength he sows, and does all the good things he does, by and of him sanctifying him, and making him meet for it, and not of himself, or any works of righteousness done by him, shall he inherit eternal life; which is the pure gift of God through Jesus Christ, and bestowed as a reward of his own grace.
In other words, spending your life running after and investing in material things reaps a harvest of material things which decay and have no value for eternity. Spending your life investing in things eternal, on the other hand, gives true success–not the distractions and frivolous entertainments of this life, but that which matters for eternity.
In the end, after peeling away some layers, we get a very common sense observation–you really do reap whatever you sow. If you invest yourself in this life–in furthering your career, getting wealthier, achieving fame or power or social standing–you may, indeed, reap a successful career, wealth, fame, power, or social standing–but all of these are temporal; they fade away. On your deathbed, when you are moments away from having to meet your Maker and giving an account to Him of how you have spend the time He has given you here in this body, these will seem so insignificant and frivolous! Remember the parable of the talents? “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 25:29, 30 NLT) We are responsible for the time, opportunity and wealth we are entrusted with in this life, and God will not hold us blameless if we spend our time pursuing that which is valueless in eternity!
Dear Lord God,
Help us sow to please Your Holy Spirit, for it is of Your Spirit that we will reap eternal life! Amen.