What if I told you that God does NOT want you to reap what you’ve sown?
Sowing and reaping is an eternal spiritual principle that is described in the Bible. It is such a universal reality that many cultures and religions recognize it in some form (ever heard of “karma?”). The idea that “doing bad things results in bad happening to you” while “doing good things results in good happening to you” has been observed and taught for centuries. And since it’s found throughout the Bible — especially within the Law — Christians have become very comfortable with it.
Nowhere do we talk about the topic of sowing and reaping more than when we’re discussing money. We’re often told that when we give, God multiplies our “seed” and yields for us a return. But this raises a question: Since when was God our steward, producing a return on our resources? Aren’t we His stewards, producing a return on His resources?
What if everything we’ve learned about sowing and reaping isn’t actually God’s desire for us? What if He doesn’t want you to reap what you’ve sown? What if He has a different plan?
I don’t usually write articles this long, but I feel like this is a topic that needs to be examined Biblically and with great care. In the coming paragraphs, I’m going to show you:
- why our typical perspective of sowing and reaping is so limiting,
- what God’s preferred outcome for your good deeds actually is, and
- the true source and purpose of worldly riches among Christians.
We’ll start with the obvious and broad principles to lay the groundwork and then start talking about money again.
It begins simply enough: If God wanted you to reap what you have sown, then He never would have sent Jesus to die for you. And yet, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (See Romans 5:8.)
How’s that for sowing and reaping?
The nature of New Covenant grace is that we no longer reap what we have personally sown. Rather, Jesus reaps what we have sown, while we reap what Jesus has sown. Our Lord has forever instituted a divine exchange: Again, Jesus died because HE reaped what YOU have sown; and by grace, He gives you life so that YOU can reap what HE has sown!
In the parable of the Ten Minas, we learn an interesting lesson: The King expects to reap what His servants have sown. And as a result, He — out of His own good will — blessed the faithful servants with an unrelated reward: cities (authority), which should have been His alone to enjoy. (See Luke 19:11-27) In verse 21, we read the servant’s words: “You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.”
Jesus reaps the good and bad from whatever we’ve sown, and we reap the good and bad from whatever He has sown…thankfully, He has only ever sown good! Jesus has never sown wickedness; WE have. And yet, He chose to reap the penalty on our behalf.
Romans 6:21-23 — What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV84)
According to this verse, whatever good we now reap is a free gift — not from our own doing. Eternal life is the reward for a righteous life. (See Matthew 25:46) And yet, we know, that not a single one of us is righteous. (See Romans 3:10.) That’s why it’s called “the gift of God.” We can’t earn it. There’s nothing we can sow to rightly reap anything good from the Lord. The only way we can possibly have eternal life (or any blessing, for that matter) is if we reap what Jesus has sown. He is the only true “Righteous One.” And we who receive Him are made righteous in God’s sight. (See Romans 3:20-26.) Why? Because we are reaping what He has sown.
If you want to reap what you’ve sown, hell will welcome you. If you want to reap what Jesus has sown, then repent of self-pleasing and surrender your life to the true King. He’ll make you righteous — perfect in God’s sight.
By grace, we are given the Spirit of sonship. (See Romans 8:15.) As sons, we benefit from the vast resources of our Father’s riches. (See Luke 15:31 and John 16:15.) Any blessings we have are by virtue of our relationship with Him rather than our own hard work. A son enjoys the blessings of the Father’s household, which only exist because of the Father’s hard work. Children may be allowed to help their father in the field, but the responsibility for the field belongs to the father, not his children. The children don’t multiply the crop — they just obey their father’s direction and enjoy the harvest He orchestrated.
Jesus taught that the way of the Kingdom is for people to reap where they have not sown. Consider what He said about doing the work of the Gospel:
John 4:35-38 — Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor. (NIV84)
Today, we know that any good thing we reap is a result of the work of Jesus. Even in the context of the above verse, any work of value by previous generations only happened because of what God was doing through them. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:7.) We may participate in His work, but He is the only true source and purpose of it all. “One sows and another reaps.”
We sow; Jesus reaps.
Jesus sows; we reap.
The only apparent “monkey wrench” in this view of sowing and reaping appears to be found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, so I want to take a moment to examine it:
2 Corinthians 9:6-11 — Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This may look like a monkey wrench, but it isn’t. Actually, it supports what I’ve been saying. If this verse was about receiving a direct turnaround of money, then why does it talk so much about meritless grace? “God is able to make all grace abound to you”…”He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor”…”He…supplies seed to the sower and bread for food”… On the contrary, this passage is clear about definitions and sources:
- God supplies the seed.
- God increases the store of seed.
- God makes you “rich in every way” SO THAT you can be generous.
The only “harvest” mentioned here for your benefit is a “harvest of righteousness.”
The cause and effect here is clear: God — with His meritless, unearned favor — blesses us with resources we don’t deserve. And the purpose is for us to sow generously. If we sow our resources generously for Him, then He will sow His resources generously for us. We sow finances generously, and we reap righteousness generously — not because righteousness is the plant that grows from money, but because we have traded places with Jesus. He reaps what we sow, and we reap what He sows. We sow worldly goods; He sows His own blood. He reaps our worldly goods (as His people are cared for and His Gospel is spread), and we reap righteousness. Jesus has transformed it from “sowing and reaping” to become “reaping and sowing!” The blessing comes first, and we sow it — not the other way around!
Do you see it?
Under the New Covenant of grace, we no longer give in order to receive. Rather, we receive in order to give. The reason we sow generously is that we want to reap generously — not to reap money, but to reap righteousness. How? Righteousness is what Jesus should be reaping. But as we sow to please Him, we reap His reward.
Once the glorious exchange of the cross takes place, we reap what Jesus has sown and He reaps what we have sown. Every evil deed we have sown was reaped in the body of our Lord at the crucifixion. Likewise, every good deed we carry out is for His sake. Jesus reaps the benefit. Jesus said that every good deed we perform is done “unto Him.”
Matthew 25:34-40–Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (NIV84)
As Christians, the good deeds we sow are for Christ’s benefit. We don’t need to sow for our own benefit because Jesus is already actively doing that. Remember, God blesses us out of love — not because we deserve it. Because of sin, we deserve nothing but death. Jesus deserves everything but death. The heart of the Gospel is that He traded places with us and then rose from the dead, reigning victorious over the sting of sin. (See 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.)
Many Christians have the idea that putting money in the church offering plate will result in financial blessing for them. The fact is, it will! I once saw a brand new, shiny, SUV that bore the license plate: “TITHING.” I laughed, but then I began to wonder about the condition of the person’s heart. Did they believe that their SUV was the result of their tithing? Or did they believe it was a gift from God…and it just so happens that they tithe? I can’t judge their heart, but I can still raise the question for the sake of examining my own motives.
If you’re giving for the sake of receiving, then you’re living according to the Law rather than according to grace. You’re “sowing” in order to fill your bank account rather than “sowing” so that Jesus might reap the reward. In essence, it’s nothing more than dabbling in magic: using spiritual laws to achieve worldly gain. And yet we teach this in our churches! May God forgive us. We don’t sow for the pleasure of our own reaping. We sow for the Lord’s pleasure.
Galatians 6:8 — The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (NIV84)
You can sow to please God or you can sow to please yourself. Who would you rather have reap the reward? Jesus said that when we do things for the sake of our own benefit — being seen by men rather than by God — we have received our rewards in full. (See Matthew 6:2,5,16.) But if we do things for His benefit — secretly and in intimacy with Him, we receive blessing from the Father. If you want to live according to the law, then you’ll receive your reward from the law. Unfortunately, it tramples the cross of Christ.
Giving always results in receiving, but it functions differently under the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, if you sow riches, you will reap more riches. Everything remains in the natural realm. Under the New Covenant, if you sow riches, you reap righteousness — in other words, you reap what you already had in Christ anyway. Instead, He reaps the riches. Just as the ocean of angels around heaven’s throne have declared, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (See Revelation 5:12.)
What use does Jesus have for wealth? What good is it in heaven? In heaven, the streets are paved with gold. This world’s wealth is like dirt there! It only makes sense that whatever worldly wealth Jesus may reap is going to be spent during this present age for the sake of His Bride and His lost sheep here on earth. So He freely distributes what He has — either to trustworthy people or to people whom He would like to train in stewardship.
Therefore, every penny we have belongs to the King. It’s His seed, which He has provided to the sowers; and some of it is bread, for our own consumption. (See 2 Corinthians 9:10.) All of it belongs to Him, and none of it belongs to us. We don’t reap from it. We sow it. The King reaps the reward. And if we are faithful stewards, He will entrust more to us. No longer are we slaves to an impersonal law; now we are favored children of the King who reap the benefits of His limitless, unearned love! And what we receive in this place of relationship is far greater than any financial return: “a harvest of righteousness.” The servants who properly stewarded the King’s money were placed in charge of cities! All that the Father has is ours.
Under the Old Covenant, if I receive a $500 blessing on Monday, it was probably related to the $5 offering I gave on Sunday. Under the New Covenant, I gave $5 on Sunday because I love Jesus; and if I receive $500 on Monday, it has nothing to do with the day before — rather, it is a kingdom resource, placed in my hands to do something productive for the King. Old Covenant thinking causes me to look at the $500 and dream about what I can spend it on — it is my harvest, after all. New Covenant thinking, however, causes me to look at the $500 and say, “Wow, God! Thanks for the gift! What do you want me to do with this?”
Under the Old Covenant, we give to receive. Under the New Covenant, we receive to give.
So should you stop giving to churches or nonprofits? By no means! If the Gospel is being multiplied through an organization, then it’s a great place to sow seed. You can also give directly to the needy and the widows (there may not be a tax write-off for you, but Jesus will still receive His reward). Every gift you give and every good deed you perform is done unto Jesus because He will reap the reward. He alone is worthy to receive ALL the return on your investment. And as He sees that you are faithfully stewarding His resources for His sake, He will know that He can give you more resources to faithfully steward for His sake.
Sometimes His blessings are a response to faithful stewardship, and sometimes they are simply unearned gifts. The way we handle the unearned gifts is an indicator of how we will handle His investments. If we’re constantly sowing for our own sake, then we can’t be trusted with any more than the unearned gifts. But if we’re constantly sowing for His sake, then we can be trusted with more.
That said, one’s riches are not equal to his or her holiness. On the contrary, the most generous givers are the ones who most generously reap righteousness. The only person Jesus ever praised for their giving (at least in the recorded Gospels) was the poor widow who gave 100% of all she had. (See Mark 12:41-44.) Likewise, Paul held up as an example the Macedonian Christians: “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” (See 1 Corinthians 8:2-4.) We should never gauge someone’s spirituality by how much money they have. The poorest person may only be poor because they give away all of their million-dollar salary every year. And the richest person may only be rich because they hoard all of their measly income. Never allow yourself to fall into the trap of judging people based on what they have.
As a final thought, it is interesting to note the prophetic significance of Israel’s “Jubilee” year as it relates to our salvation. It was a year of favor, liberty, and blessing — which is what Jesus said He came to fulfill. (See Luke 4:17-21.) During this Jubilee year, God gave Israel some important instructions, which in many ways parallel our salvation (release from debt, redemption from slavery, etc. See Leviticus 25). Of particular interest to me are two scriptures — one having to do with the Jubilee year (every 50 years), and the other having to do with the Sabbath year (every seven years), which would inevitably lead into the Jubilee (49th: Sabbath, and 50th: Jubilee):
Leviticus 25:11 — The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. (NIV84)
Leviticus 25:20-21 — You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. (NIV84)
God told His people that in the Jubilee year, they were not to sow or reap. The reason was that the Jubilee was a time for Him to bless His people and provide supernaturally for them while they rest from their own efforts. In the same way, now that you have come to salvation in Christ, you live in the year of the Lord’s favor. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.” (See 2 Corinthians 1:20.) Salvation brings us into a permanent Sabbath and a permanent Jubilee. Our rest is eternal. Our freedom is eternal. The prophetic picture has been fulfilled through Christ.
Just as the food continued to grow in Israel during the Jubilee year, the spiritual law of sowing and reaping still works today. But God instructed His children to ignore the natural provision and instead enjoy what He gave them supernaturally. We are invited to ignore the Law and focus on Jesus, who fulfills the Law.
God doesn’t want you to reap what you’ve sown; He wants you to reap what Jesus has sown.
The return on your investment is His to reap. The return on His investment — righteousness — is yours to reap.
Don’t sow to please yourself. Sow to please the Lord.
Matthew 6:26 — Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (NIV84)