April 9, 2017

In this issue: Sowing and Reaping by Vaughn D. Shofner

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Sowing and Reaping Graphic

Vaughn D. Shofner

There is a close analogy between the natural world and the spiritual world. They both bear the majestic impress of the same hand. Therefore, the principles and laws of nature present the analogous types and shadows of the spiritual world. These two worlds are two books written by the same finger, and governed and kept by the same intelligence.

One can not pursue a study of plain agriculture without soon finding that chemistry blends into it. Any channel of knowledge, "science," which our minds follow will soon be found to consolidate with another, and we are thus made to understand that one divine idea connects the whole universe in one system of perfect order.

Within the scope of this great principle Christ did much of his teaching. As a man, and unto mankind, yet in perfect harmony with the divine system, he revealed the connection of things, and read the will of the eternal Father in the simplest laws of nature. For instance, to elucidate and emphasize the authoritative decree, "ye cannot serve God and mammon,” the information he used was derived from facts lying open to the observation of all. "Behold the fowls of the air," said he, and, "consider the lilies of the field." The great principle was there which reached to the Creator, and explained that God supplies the needs which he has created. He feeds the ravens, he clothes the lilies, he will supply the physical needs and feed the craving spirits of his children; agreeable with the immutable order of his universe.

The inspirational power of Paul revealed this principle which reaches far beyond what is seen, when he declared: "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" (Galatians 6:7,8). This principle of analogy expounds the laws of sowing and reaping; that is, tare seed comes forth as tares, and corn seed comes up corn, and the harvest in both cases is in proportion to the labor, and the quantity committed to the soil. So it is with the spiritual: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; not something else, but "that.” The proportion holds in kind, and it holds in degree also. "He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully" (II Corinthians 9:6). If we could understand and properly expound that lesson, it seems that we should be saved from the disappointment which comes from extravagant and misapplied expectations.

Gentle reader, according to God's natural and spiritual laws, there are two kinds of good possible to mankind: one for the benefit of our animal being, and the other for the benefit of our spiritual being. Then there are of necessity two kinds of reaping, and the labor necessary for them respectively is of very different kinds. The labor which procures the harvest of the one has absolutely no tendency to secure the harvest of the other.

I state as humbly as possible, I have no desire to depreciate the advantages of this material world, for it is also the handiwork of God. I reckon the comfort, success, freedom from want, in the material way, to be real and good and necessary; but I intend to try to behold the difference between the spiritual and the natural. The labor bestowed upon the goods of this world, although planned to meet the needs of mankind, will not procure one single blessing that is spiritual. God "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45), and consequently I have no authority to claim the right to more material blessings as a child of God than the evil and unjust person.

On the other hand, kind reader, the seed which is sown for a spiritual harvest has absolutely no tendency to procure temporal well being. For example, "the pure in heart" are promised that they shall "see God." Those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" are told "they shall be filled." They that mourn are told that they “shall be comforted," and the believers are told to "repent, and be baptized ... for the remission of sins." Those persons who are "faithful unto death" are promised a "crown of life." It is very difficult to try to read material blessings into these promises. Any harvest demands its own preparation, and that preparation will not produce another sort of harvest. The body and the spirit belong to different existences and that which may be appropriated to one cannot be appropriated to the other.

Weary Christian, let us silence the sentimental wonderings about the unfairness of the distribution of the material things of life. To be sure, the rich man has his good things, and Lazarus has evil things, but this very fact marks the distinction between the two worlds, and shouts of a future life where things will be made fair by the bounties of a different harvest. God made this world better than I could, better than you could, and before we covet the enjoyments others possess, may we count the cost at which they were procured!

Be of courage, gentle reader, from time immemorial the children of God have had closed to them many of the avenues to the riches and pleasures of this world. A body "presented a living sacrifice" has never had the guarantee of bountiful physical blessings. No apostle was promised that he would reap bountifully of this world's goods for sowing to the Spirit, but the apostles were told that they "would be brought before governors and kings for my sake." They were told, "ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake," but to "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." They were told to be mindful always of the fact that they could not expect a material harvest for the spiritual sowing they engaged in, but "he that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10). How can preachers promise physical blessings to those whom they desire to urge to greater activities in spiritual sowing? Whatsoever a man soweth, "that" shall he reap!

And how hard it is today, kind sower, to find a disciple of our Lord who fills the praiseworthy description of the widow indeed (I Timothy 5). However, she did not reap bountifully of this physical world for her diligent sowing to the Spirit, but waited as an indigent saint for that bounteous harvest of eternal life.

Kind friend, a person reaps what he has sown! The harvest of sowing to the Spirit is life eternal. The destiny of all souls, good and bad, is unending life, therefore a spirit may live forever, yet not enter into this promised blessing. When God blesses with eternal life, it is duration of existence, yes, but it is also that heavenly quality of existence which never fluctuates, but is the same unalterably, forever in the life of God; to see him as he is, for those so rewarded shall be like him.

Sowing to the flesh includes the sinful, licentious ways of countless worldlings, to be sure, but one can live by strict moral and civil standards and sow to corruption. The many joys and comforts of this life, honestly and justly procured, if that is the extent of the sowing, will terminate with time. Even the pyramid crumbles into dust at last. The grave to them is not the gate of paradise, but simply the impressive mockery which the pale hand of death writes upon that body for which they lived, and with which all is gone. They reap corruption, for all they have toiled for decays! ~

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