VII. We Reap From The Sowing Of Others
We have come to the last two laws of harvest, and I have grouped them together because they both deal with the past and its impact in our lives. Law number 7 is that we reap from the sowing of others. This is a very, very important principle and it helps us to appreciate history and especially our own covenantal roots. Law 8 is that we cannot do anything about last year’s bad harvest (if we had one), but we can do something about this year’s harvest. These two laws are interrelated in terms of our understanding of the past and so we are going to take them both together.
In his book, Millennialism and Social Theory, Gary North says, “Present orientation is a denial of the very foundations of Western culture: respect for the past and faith in the future” (North, Millennialism and Social Theory, p. 34). Now we have already looked at the importance of being driven by the future and not being driven by the past. But that does not mean that we neglect the past.
Your own past is a series of building blocks which when taken together have enabled you to accomplish much. Imagine how difficult it would be if you started every day from scratch without any memories or habits. You wouldn’t even get your shoelaces tied. It took you a long time to learn to tie your shoelaces as a child, and it took you longer to learn other essential habits such as how to get your fork from your plate into your mouth instead of into your eye. And think of the vast amount of information you have stored up just to do the daily work that you are presently doing. That may seem like an obvious example, yet we take it for granted and do not appreciate the blessings we have to be able to walk, ride a bike, read the newspaper and a thousand other things until we have had a stroke. Without the investments of the past we are toast. And we need to appreciate the past and thank God for all the things we are reaping now because of past actions.
And if that is true of our own personal life, how much more so is it true of our culture as a whole. America enjoys incredible blessings that we take for granted. You could not have a washing machine, computer, telephone, or car without countless investments from the past. You could not have American freedoms without the investments of our Puritan forefathers. You could not have commentaries and printed Bibles. We are constantly reaping things that others sowed. So let me start with that first principle, that we reap from the sowing of others. Galatians 6:6 indicates that you reap truth from a pastor that comes from wisdom you did not sow. Verse 10 indicates that there are unbelievers and other believers who will reap from your life in things they didn’t sow. And we should no more begrudge giving them such blessings than we reject using a TV because we didn’t invent it, or reject American freedoms because we didn’t fight in the War for Independence. We need to think covenantally rather than individualistically. There are some Christians who don’t want to participate in the church’s body life because they either don’t need or don’t want to be beholden to someone else for what you reap. Let me tell you, you cannot get away from it. It doesn’t matter how much you try. You are always reaping something sown by someone else. God intended it to be that way. If you are in the covenant you are supposed to be reaping what others have sowed and you are supposed to continually sow so that others can reap. God made life in such a way that we will need each other and will be interdependent, and when we try to fight against that by either individualism or by present orientedness we are butting our heads against this law, and guess which of the two will get hurt? It will only be you. We need to value the sowing of others into our lives so much that when you are excluded from the first home group because we are starting small and growing out that you are majorly bummed out and you are going to want to find out when home groups will expand so that you can invest into the lives of others and so that you can harvest what they are investing into your life.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let me try to describe this principle in a little bit more detail so that you can see how this law really does impact us in many different ways.
VII. We Reap From the Sowing of Others (vv. 6,10; John 4:35-38)
I think the only part of this principle that sinners tend to think about (at least very consciously) is the negative side. We reap debts that we never sowed and think that this is unfair. Why should our generation be saddled with the debts that have accumulated from the past fifty years of American deficit spending? Our tendancy is to want to pass them on to someone else. But eventually, those debts will come down crushingly on the backs of some generation. We reap from the sowing of others, painfully sometimes.
And Scripture illustrates the negative side in many different ways. For example, Exodus 34:7 says ““keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, [That’s the positive side of this law of harvest] by no means clearing the guilty, [Now get this phrase which shows the negative side] visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”” And our immediate reaction is, “That’s not fair.” But it’s a law of harvest. It may not seem fair that you will die if you jump of a bridge, but that’s a law of gravity. And in terms of the laws of harvest, we are affected by the actions of others, just as our actions will affect not just one generation, but several generations. This is covenantalism. You cannot escape from it even as a rebel against God. We are covenantally connected with our nation. We are covenantally connected with Adam. But praise Jesus we are also covenantally connected with Christ and His church.
Now the encouraging thing to me about that verse is that the positive side of the law of harvest is far more powerful – to a thousand generations, compared to two or three generations for sin. If you look at the impact that Biblical law has had upon Western Civilization, it is phenomenal – despite the evil that is around us. Now you can pluck up righteous fruit through revolution and have no more fruit from it, just like your generation can decide to pluck up the dandelions that were sown by your fathers and break off the evil fruit that it bears. That’s one of the reasons why for the first several hundred years of church history when people came to Christ they had a procedure sometimes called exorcism by which they renounced the works of darkness and all the hold that Satan might have through their ancestors. I have a prayer that I got from Mark Bubeck that some of you have used and I have had reports of immediate help in certain areas of besetting sin when they have used that. They have plucked up the plant before it could give any more harvest. It was not until I dealt with this demonic visitation of ancestral sin that I got complete victory over one of my own besetting sins – the sin of anger. Unless the past is rooted out in a revolutionary way, it will continue to bear fruit. Why? We are covenantally connected to our parents and we will reap things that they have sown unless the plants are dug up.
And Scripture not only speaks of the fruit of sin, but also covenantal punishments that you can reap even though you didn’t sow the seeds. In countries that have entered war, it may not have been your decision to declare war at all, yet you might get killed in action. The sins of our President and Congress can bring God’s judgments upon the whole nation. Jeremiah suffered from the judgments that came against Israel. Daniel, a man deeply loved by God, suffered in exile because of the sins of Israel. Why? There is a covenantal relationship of a citizen to a nation, of a member to a church. If a church comes under God’s judgment, the citizens suffer. Turn with me to Revelation 2:19-20
Rev. 2:19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
Notice that there was spiritual growth in the church. Their good works were more now than they were at the first. Jesus is impressed with their works, love, service, faith and patience. He’s impressed. But notice what He says in verse 20:
Rev. 2:20 “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Though the church as a whole was good, because they tolerated this woman’s abominations and did not discipline her, God had something against the church as a whole. They are covenantally related. That’s why it would scare me to death to be a member of a liberal church. I couldn’t. In verse 2 the church in Ephesus was in danger of being removed, in verse 16 God threatened to fight against them.
Lack of education
This law applies to education. I have occasionally complained about the poor education that I received. I’ve had to remedy that by retaking math after highschool, learning logic, philosophy and other things that were missing. I have been remedying the past so that my children won’t have to reap the negative that I have reaped. I want my children to get beyond where I was able to get and I want my grandchildren to get beyond them. How can I do that? By plucking up the bad plants and investing in ways that they will reap positively.
Sinful images, ideas, idioms and inconsistencies
There have been people who are plagued with bad memories from the past, or have learned habits from their parents, or had inconsistencies. Unless these are deliberately rooted out, they will continue to produce a harvest in your life. Now don’t be fatalistic in this. You can root it out in one generation. But it doesn’t happen automatically.
So as I say, we recognize the bad harvest that we have had without having ever sown it. But that is nothing compared to the incredible blessings we have received from the past. And I want to spend some time on the positive.
Division of labor (v. 6)
Verse 6 hints at the division of labor between the pastor and those who are taught. Not all are teachers. But as you share in my life by taking away my worldly concerns and as I share in your life, we both share in each other’s rewards and in each other’s harvest. And if you once grasp the power of the principle of division of labor that started with Eve and continues to the present, it will blow your mind.
One of my favorite economic essays was one written by Leonard E. Read from Hillsdale College on the manufacturing of a pencil. It’s title, I, Pencil. And it’s the pencil telling the story of how it came into existence. A pencil seems like such a small thing, yet no one man could produce a pencil which is made of wood, lacquer, printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal and an eraser. Just owning a small pencil is a blessing that came about through generations of technology building. If you just start with the tree that the wood came from you need to factor in saws, trucks, rope and countless other gear in the harvesting and carting of the wood to the railroad siding. And for that to be achieved iron ore needed to be mined, steel manufactured, motors developed; growing hemp and bringing it through all the stages to rope. Then there are the logging camps, mess halls, cookery and those who raised the food and the coffee. Read goes on and on in his parable. He points out how complex making the lead is, and the incredible process involved in the unique way the wood is shaped into a multiple sided sandwich with the lead inserted, and the many stages that go into the yellow paint and then the laquer. And by the time you have finished reading the essay you have an amazing appreciation for how impossible it would be for us to do much of anything without having benefited not only from the sowing of many contemporaries, but from the sowing of countless generations who have built up technologies to the point where this pencil making was possible. And you take some of the more complex things that we enjoy and it really is mind blowing. This is a fundamental principle of economics. It’s not just body life in the church.
In his book, Backward Christian Soldiers, Gary North says,
One of the most fundamental principles of economics is the division of labor… almost anyone in industrial nations has more tools and comforts than the kings of the eighteenth century - better medical care (with safe and effective anesthetics), warmer homes in the winter, cooler homes in the summer, and cheaper entertainment, every night of the week. (Backward Christians Soldiers, pages 142-143)
And he goes on to show that without the sowing of others in the past we would still be a primitive people.
And so we need to value the past. We need to value the covenantal relationships that God has put us into and maximize them. What happens to the manufacture of pencils if any one of the thousands of essential steps is taken out of the division of labor. It makes the pencil either costly or impossible. Well, the same is true of our relationships in the church. Paul admonishes us in this passage that we need to be busy sowing into the lives of others and especially into the life of the church. In verse 6 he tells us not to neglect the pastoral ministry. And in the verse 10 he tells us not to neglect the body ministry.
And don’t just think on a horizontal plane. Factor this covenantal thinking into your plans for the future. Just as we reaped where we have not sowed, we need to be willing to sow so that others will reap. Our founding fathers laid up incredible freedoms for us through their sacrifices. Will a future generation be able to say the same thing about us? And we might think: “Hey! I’m only one person. What can I do when no one else is helping?” Listen to the laws of harvest. Paul says in verse 9: And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Every person needs to do his part. As Everett Hale said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do, and with the help of God, I will do!”
So we reap where we did not sow negatively and positively. But we also reap where we did not sow in the area of the miraculous. If you look at your finances only in terms of the other seven laws you could be hugely limited in your vision of what God could do. These other laws are exciting all in their own right. I think they expand our vision. But this law indicates that God frequently brings blessings into our lives for which we did not even have to raise a finger. And I have seen this time and time again.
Let me list just a few Biblical examples of people who were prospered by God in miraculous ways. Since we are talking about the Christian and Prosperity in this series, let’s realize that this law says that it’s not wrong to reap where we did not sow. And each one of these examples is a case of reaping where he did not sow. God provided bread for the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16). He provided meat where there were no markets to buy Quail (Numb 11). And he did that for millions of Jews. It was a miracle. Three times God mentions that he kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out and kept their feet from swelling (Deut 8:4; 29:5; Neh. 9:21). Don’t despise God’s miracles in the arena of economics. God multiplied the oil of the widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7 and at the end of that same chapter he multiplied the food for one hundred people. God fed Elijah through the harvesting efforts of the ravens in 1 Kings 17. Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish in Matthew 14 and in the next chapter He fed four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish. He helped his disciples pay their taxes with a coin found in the mouth of a fish (Matt 17:27) and Christ helped his disciples catch a boat load of fish on more than one occasion (Luke 5 and John 21). Our God is a God of miracles and there is no law on the books today that says miracles can’t happen. Amen? This law of harvest presupposes God’s generosity. It presupposes that we are not just in covenantal relationship with each other (and thus reaping from each other) but we are in covenantal relationship with God and therefore reaping from His where we did not sow. Isn’t that encouraging? We reap where we have not sowed. We reap from the sowing of others.