One of the devil’s most clever schemes laid against the Church is obscuring the actual message of Scripture and tricking preachers / teachers into declaring only part of the truth — and to the wrong audience on top of that.
The enemy has a lot to celebrate when he can deceive us into using a prophetic passage, meant for believers, to preach an evangelistic message for the lost.
For example, consider Galatians 6: 7-8, in the KJV’s masterfully poetic rendering:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
No one but the Lord could count the times we have used this passage to warn the lost that their sins will take them to eternity in hell.
The problem is, the author isn’t speaking to the lost.
Let’s add another translation to the mix to aid our understanding:
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. (NLT)
While it’s true that God-less people will, after death, be cast into the second death, verse 1 of this passage makes it clear the apostle Paul is not talking about lost souls but rather is speaking to believers about situations in which another believer is overcome by sin. And while the overcome believer does face the prospect of harvesting decay and death, Paul’s “reap what you sow” warning actually is directed to Christians who think they are too important to come to the aid of another believer who is in danger (v.3).
So what is Paul saying to us “dear brothers and sisters”? How are we mocking God and his justice?
Imagine, if you will, a trip to the beach. You are happily building sandcastles with the kids when a woman wading in the surf is grabbed by a riptide and pulled out into deep water. She’s flailing about and calling for help, fearfully at first, then angrily when you delay responding. But you don’t run into the water to help — and she drowns.
That would be bad enough, but add to the story that the drowning person was your sister.
Would you expect to receive a reward from the Lord if you allowed your sister to drown?
Going back to verse 1, Paul is talking about how godly Christians should respond when other believers are being overcome by sin — helping them get back on the right path. The “God is not mocked; you will reap what you sow” message of verses 7-8 is directed at the not-godly Christians who can’t be bothered to help people drowning in sin.
Multitudes — inside the church and out — are being overcome. Some are drowning in sin of their own choosing; others are being drowned by the sin of others. Children are abused and neglected. Broken souls try to ease the pain with alcohol or other drugs. They try to fill the void with sexual escapades and deviance. They pursue wealth — working themselves to death or wasting what little they have on gambling. Vast numbers are stuck in crushing poverty because no one has ever taught them how to provide for themselves. The weak and vulnerable fall into the hands of traffickers and slavers.
And Christians by the millions are not helping.
Paul wants to know if we think we are too important to turn aside and help. Is what we are busy with so urgent that we can’t interrupt it to rescue someone about to be overcome and die? He warns that the death and decay we are about to inherit is the result of our own decision to indulge ourselves when we know someone else is being overcome by evil.
One application of this truth has been unfolding in the United States for a century and finally has begun accelerating at a rate that previously distracted Christians have noticed. The foundation of civilized society has been badly eroded, and the whole structure is about to come crashing down.
What did we think would happen in a nation when God’s people didn’t gently restore neighbors who were being overcome by poverty and its thugs? Instead, we chose to “look out for No. 1” and leave the poor soul to the government.
The poor soul looked to God’s people and saw no one cared. Like the drowning sister, fear simmered into anger, which over several generations begins to boil into rage. Multiply that by millions and throw in demagogues who don’t hesitate to manipulate that rage for their own purposes. How many generations must pass before that society explodes and the “important” people find their comfort has been replaced with death and decay? If you are paying any attention at all, the fields in America and all over the world are “white unto harvest” for destruction.
Far too many preachers / teachers have limited the Gospel to a spiritual message about life after death. In doing that, we diminish the Good News of redemption from captivity and freedom to live abundant, as well as eternal, lives. Even worse, we harden our people’s hearts against the Father of Orphans, the Husband of Widows, the Welcomer of Strangers, the Friend of Slaves, Addicts, and Prisoners.
We have closed our ears to the cries of the poor and oppressed. We have focused our proclamation on God’s just punishment of wicked souls who will not worship him — and forgotten the Almighty’s justice also is good news for those who suffer in any kind of slavery and who are oppressed by all kinds of sin.
When we are too self-absorbed, preoccupied, and distracted to be bothered about personally helping people in need — and insist we will nonetheless inherit the riches of God’s kingdom — we mock the one who clearly told us the Kingdom is reserved for those who help “the least of these my brothers and sisters.” When God’s people turn a deaf ear to the cries of souls in need, the Almighty turns a deaf ear to them. When they stubbornly persist in ignoring the poor and oppressed, the Lord sends them into captivity in a far land until they learn their lesson.
God’s own people reap a harvest of decay and death because they sowed seeds of apathy and self-absorption.
How to reap a harvest of blessing instead? Verses 9-10: Don’t get tired of doing what is good and don’t give up. Whenever you have the opportunity, “do good to everyone — especially to those in the family of faith.” In the end, we can’t just give a little money and expect someone else to do the hard work. Verse 5: For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
For what it’s worth, this isn’t the only prophetic passage we twist to evangelistic ends.