Welcome back everyone to our study of the book of Proverbs where we are learning the way of the wise.  Today we are talking about the most important and most ignored principle of life that we find in our Bibles.  This is something we feel the ramifications of in our daily lives.  If we understand this principle and apply it to our lives our lives are just better, if we don’t understand this principle and ignore it or refuse to apply it to our lives, we will struggle, and the worst part is we won’t even understand why life is so hard.  How is that for an opening statement?  Not only are we talking about the most important and ignored life principle in our Bibles, but it will lead us to the most challenging of all things Jesus said in Scripture…so yeah, we are going for it today!  But before I reveal the most important and ignored life principle found in Scripture, I want to ask you some questions.  Have you ever found yourself in a tough spot, and thought how in the world did I get here?  Have you walked in a relationship with someone and at one time you were close and felt a real connection with them but over time, you feel distant?  Then in a moment of clarity, you think how did that relationship fall apart the way it has?  Let’s talk about your walk with God.  Are there times in your life when you feel close to Him, and then moments where you wonder, where is God in all this because He feels so distant?  When it comes to your faith have you ever wondered why Christianity seems to work for some people, but it just doesn’t for you?  You see others experiencing joy, peace, and their best lives possible as they walk with God but wonder why this Christianity thing just isn’t working for you.  You know, life is an amazing thing; it just keeps happening.  Time flies by, and painful and challenging things hit our lives.  This can make life feel like an absolute whirlwind where things like our relationships with God, or people, our family lives, and just our lives in general, seem hard, and confusing.  We have moments of clarity in the middle of the chaos of life, but we struggle to recognize or understand how we end up in the spots we end up in.  It leaves us wondering things like this…Why do things seem so hard for me?  Or, why do I seem to have such bad luck while others don’t seem to have it as tough as I do?  Does this resonate with you today?  Well, today we look at the most important and ignored life principle found in Scripture, and it will answer our questions for you.  Now I’m just going to warn you the answer to these questions may not be something you like to hear, but it is so important and can lead to true freedom and your best life possible if you can grab hold of it and apply it to your life.  Are you ready?  Here it is.

You reap what you sow.  You will harvest what you plant.  This life principle is found all through Scripture from the Old Testament to the New and leads us to the key to living our best lives possible and it is understanding what many call the Law of Reaping and Sowing.  We will talk about what this means in a moment, but first, let’s get into our study.  Solomon says this in Proverbs 22.

Proverbs 22:8 He who sows wickedness reaps trouble, and the rod of his fury will be destroyed. NIV

Proverbs 22:8 Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end. NLT

If you have been reading through Proverbs with us, you have heard him talk this way before.  Early on in this manual for living Solomon is talking about the choice to not listen to wisdom and says this…

Proverbs 1:29 “For you closed your eyes to the facts and did not choose to reverence and trust the Lord, 30 and you turned your back on me, spurning my advice. 31 That is why you must eat the bitter fruit of having your own way and experience the full terrors of the pathway you have chosen. 32 For you turned away from me-to death; your own complacency will kill you. Fools! 33 But all who listen to me shall live in peace and safety, unafraid.” TLB

I love the way verse 31 is written in the Message version because it explains this principle well.

Proverbs 1:31 Well, you’ve made your bed — now lie in it; you wanted your own way — now, how do you like it? MSG

We find this principle or law of life all through our Bibles.  So, what does it mean to reap what you sow, or that you will harvest what you plant?  You don’t have to be a farmer or gardener to understand this principle.  The law of reaping what you sow could be said this way.  What we experience in our lives comes from somewhere.  It is not random; it is not luck.  The life you are experiencing comes from the choices and actions you take in life.  What we sow or plant in our lives is what we will reap or harvest in our lives.  How we live and the choices we make lead to the experience we have in life.  This is the most ignored and important life principle found in our Bibles, and maybe I should add it is also very challenging to hear and accept in our lives, but we must see this because on the other side of feeling a little uncomfortable in this principle is a true path to freedom and our best lives possible.  How we live and the choices we make matter.  It’s cause and effect.  We feel the ramifications of our life choices every day both positively and negatively.  Do you understand this principle?  You harvest what you plant…you reap what you sow, it’s cause and effect.

You know, there is not a more important life principle to grab hold of than this one. It truly is life-changing to understand and take ownership of the law of reaping what you sow.  But I told you it is the most important but also the most ignored, and that is because most people don’t want to hear that they have a role in the way their lives play out.  Many ignore this law of reaping what you sow for a few reasons.  For some, it is simply that they don’t think intentionally and are just unaware of their role in their life experiences.  Others just refuse to take responsibility for their lives and actions, and it is easier to point fingers and blame others because when they do, they can reason away where they are in life, and every reason is given to them why they will never change.  And for others, they can tell you every reason why it is everyone else and never them, and they don’t want to hear about accountability for their own lives in any way.  The wise not only understand the law of reaping what they sow, but they own it and make choices that allow them to experience their best life possible.  So, before we dive into Scripture, let’s look at a few examples of this from everyday life.  I have done this with you throughout this study, where we look at two people, both very intelligent, and both with a lot of knowledge but only one of the two is wise.  Remember, wisdom is more than just being smart or having a lot of knowledge, wisdom is knowledge and the capacity to live it out.  With that said let’s look at a few examples in life of reaping what you sow.

Money and Savings – So we have two people both very intelligent, both are Christian, and both have a lot of knowledge on what the Bible says, and both understand and have read the countless places in Scripture that say you will reap what you sow…but remember only one is wise.  Now both know they want to retire one day, but again only one is wise.  So, the unwise buy everything they want because they deserve it.  If they see it and feel like they want it, they buy it.  They spend their money living in the now, with no thought or care about what tomorrow may bring, but then later at harvest time when it’s time to retire, they are devastated because they have no money to retire on.   They are angry and frustrated with the economy or the current political situation, but they ignored this important life principle, and don’t want to hear that because they couldn’t sacrifice a little for the days of their future, they are now harvesting what they planted.  The wise, they deny the impulse purchases, and put money away, with the knowledge that they will reap what they sow here…and the day of retirement is a much better day.

Relationships – We have two people both very intelligent, both are Christian, and both have a lot of knowledge on what the Bible says about loving others, and how it all starts with our hearts and builds out from there, but only one is wise.  They both have a spouse they love and both marriages start off great but over time one of the marriages is as hot as it was 20 years ago, the other is distant and the two couldn’t feel farther apart.  So, what is happening?  Could one couple just be lucky and the other not?  Well, no…because the law of reaping what we sow is so real.  You see, the wise understand this and are making life choices to spend time with God daily, intentionally centering each day on Him which allows them a soft heart and allows the fruit or product coming out of their lives to be love.  They plant love and servanthood and listen to their spouse.  They can place themselves in the other’s shoes.  They have patience, and the ability to focus on something other than themselves and their relationship grows closer through love, and the investment they are making to be with God and each other is paying off.  They reap what they sow because we know that over time, we just become more of who we are on the inside.  The unwise do not work on their own heart condition, they do the least possible, and live each day for that day with no thought of what they are planting in their life.   Frankly, they have been sowing seeds that come out of a life lived in the flesh…the fruit?  Well, it’s, resentment, impatience, and anger with no ability to place themselves in the other’s shoes…out of the overflow of their heart the mouth speaks and continues to speak as they take any chance, they can cut down their spouse with their words publicly and then wonders decades later the marriage is where it is at…do you see it?  The wise see it, the unwise can’t admit it but you reap what you sow.

I could show you countless examples of this, frankly Ken and I sit and talk with people every day in so much pain, dealing with so much difficulty in their lives and it is so real and so tough, but so much of the hurts and pain right down to how hard our lives are comes down to the choices we are making and how we are living our lives…you reap what you sow.  We wonder where God is because he feels so distant from us, but we choose to live for ourselves and not for Him.  We reap what we sow.  We want to be physically healthy and it’s so frustrating that we aren’t physically healthy while we make choices to eat and live, however, we want to live.  We look at someone who is healthy and resent them, but the reality is we reap what we sow.  So many of us are frustrated with our lives, while never seeing our role in our lives.  We think we have bad luck, or that life is just harder for us than it is for others, but we never take ownership of the choices we make in our daily lives.  We don’t want to believe it but the reality is we reap what we sow.  This is the most important and most ignored and I would say the most challenging thing for you to hear but when you get it, accept it, and own it…well everything about your life can change.  This principle is such a big deal, and I want you to understand that it is found all through the Bible, and just for fun, I want you to see a few examples today.  Let’s start with God speaking through the prophet Hosea…

Hosea 10:12 I (God) said, ‘Plow new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessings that your devotion to me will produce. It is time for you to turn to me, your Lord, and I will come and pour out blessings upon you.’ 13 But instead you planted evil and reaped its harvest. You have eaten the fruit produced by your lies.”  Because you trusted in your chariots and in the large number of your soldiers, 14 war will come to your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed. GNT

Do you see it here?  You reap what you sow.  God said it is time you turn to me, and I will bless you, but you didn’t plant a Godly life, you chose to live your way, you continued to plant selfishness, lies, and evil…and you reap what you sow.  In those moments those people will ask God why, shaking their hands at the sky God why is life so hard and painful?  Wondering where God is, while ignoring the law of reaping what they sow.  Doesn’t that remind you of some of Solomon’s wise tweets we have studied so far?

Proverbs 1:31 Well, you’ve made your bed — now lie in it; you wanted your own way — now, how do you like it? MSG

Proverbs 19:3 People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed? MSG

Do you see it?  You reap what you sow.  Paul brings this concept up in a few of his letters, and this example from Galatians is very clear.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 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. NIV

For the sake of conversation, let’s turn to the New Living Translation and just talk for a moment.

Galatians 6:7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 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

So, I keep calling this concept of reaping what you sow the most important and ignored and challenging law of life found in our Bibles and it is.  It’s important because if we grasp and apply it, we literally take ownership of our lives and make choices that lead us to our best lives possible…to everything we always see and hear our lives could be but never seem to find.  It’s also the most ignored concept of Scripture, our eyes and hearts just seem to overlook our role in what we experience in life from good to bad.  It is also the most challenging because it forces us to take ownership of our lives and decisions, it doesn’t allow for excuses or finger-pointing but holds us accountable for how we choose to live our lives…which is so opposite of our culture today and frankly, is so opposite to most every instinct a human has…but make no mistake about it, in the end, you harvest what you plant in life.  You reap what you sow.  We don’t like to admit it, but when we are honest, we find this to be true in all aspects of our lives.

While I’m tempted to really press in on what this means to us very practically, I have something that I have really been wrestling with, more and more.  It’s just sitting on me, and continues to keep me up at night, and has placed a real tension in my heart and mind.  Frankly, it’s Jesus really diving into this same life principle, and it’s one that most Christians don’t want to address, they don’t seem to want to talk about or deal with or be confronted with in their own lives.  I find this interesting because we all know with one hundred percent certainty that we will be confronted one day with how we live our lives, and that is the day we stand before Jesus.  We know it’s coming, but we may not want to talk about it, or deal with it…it feels so urgent in my heart and mind that I want us to talk about it today.

So, we are talking about the most important and ignored life principle found in our Bibles, and now I will take us to the most challenging thing Jesus says in all of Scripture…so yeah, intense, but stick with me here, because this is a big deal.  You reap what you sow.  At the end of Jesus’ famous Sermon on The Mount, he gives us the ultimate example of reaping what you sow, which comes down to our eternal destinations.  We can talk about money, marriage, your health, your family…but Jesus goes right to all of eternity to come and where we will spend it here in Matthew 7.  This isn’t talked about enough, for obvious reasons but it needs to be discussed.  As Jesus starts to land the plane in this incredible sermon, he talks about how rare it is to see someone find God and eternal life…

Matthew 7:13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” NLT

That is interesting because a Christian life that leads to true life is a life of denying ourselves and following Jesus.  Not many make this choice, as we live in the moment.  We love the concept of heaven someday, but it is rare to see someone choose to live a life that can deny today’s pleasures and find that real life Jesus tries to lead us towards.  There is so much fun in the “now”, that it’s hard to deny ourselves of it today, for all of eternity to come, it’s rare.  But we must understand that we reap what we sow.  He says it’s rare to see someone plant a Godly life that values eternity more than the pleasures of today, and then he warns against false teachers and gives us a literal image of reaping and sowing, saying you can see who someone is by the fruit their life produces.

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way, they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. NLT

Do you see it?  You reap what you sow.  You want to see who someone really is, you can identify people by their lives.  Then he takes it a step further…this is the statement that I have been wrestling with for me, for my loved ones, and for all of us in the Spiritual Family.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’  NIV

Ok, that is terrifying, and it seems to contradict other scriptures and even the grace we are given.  We like talking about grace, don’t we?  Jesus is the ultimate victory over sin and death…Jesus and what He did for us is bigger, and Sam, you say it all the time, anything that minimizes that victory and what He did for us on that Cross is the spirit of religion…and you are right.  Maybe then to understand this we need to truly understand what it means to be a Christian.  For so many of us, we don’t equate the Christian life with life change, but the reality is when I ask Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior my life changes, and I am now living for God and not myself.  Many of us say the words and tell people we are Christian, but to be a Christian means we are living for Him and as He lived…and if we are honest, we are not doing that.  We love God and we want to go to Heaven, and we may do some good things, but we are choosing to live our lives for ourselves.  There is no life change, no surrender, nothing changes but what we call ourselves.  Jesus says that it is possible to call on Him, say the right words, calling Him Lord or Master while doing a lot of good and Christian things, and still not be known by Him, and still not be a follower of His…and still not be with him for all of eternity to come.  This is not Him contradicting scripture, it is helping us understand it.  It is possible to say you are a Christian and to look like a Christian to other people and still not be one.  Jesus is reminding us here that while we may feel good about ourselves, and never may feel held accountable for how we are living our lives, there will be a day when we are.  Can we just talk here today?  We can look very Christian, and do a lot of good things, literally call Him Lord, Lord, and still not be a Christian.  That is important to understand.  It’s also very important that we understand this, and grab hold of it now, rather than when we stand before Him on that day.  That is the wrong time to grasp it.  On that day we want to hear “Well done my good and faithful servant,” the nightmare would be to hear him say, “Depart from me I never knew you.”  You know, we won’t grasp this if we can’t understand the most important and ignored life concept found in Scripture.  You reap what you sow.  I have to tell you this whole concept keeps me up at night.  We point to grace and love, and those are amazing things…but instead of embracing the gift that they are and giving our hearts, mind, and soul over to God we just continue to live life as we always did thinking it’s fine to never bend my knee and live for God because Jesus paid the bill.  We love Him and do good things for Him, we have asked Him into our lives…maybe even got baptized but we never choose to live for Him, we never give our lives to Him.  We say the words, but never live differently…is this life change?  Am I truly Christian if I live every day of my life as I want rather than how God wants?  Am I Christian if I look really good and godly and nice to other humans on this planet?  If nothing changes in my heart and mind and soul, have I truly given my life to God?  Is God impressed if other people think I’m Godly?  Can I trick God into thinking I’m something I’m not on the inside?  Well, that is what Paul was saying in Galatians…

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 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. NIV

You can fool people and feel good about your life and how others think you are living, but in the end, you are not fooling God who knows you inside and out.  God cannot be mocked…we reap what we sow.  For so many as they read Jesus saying these things it either doesn’t land or they get confused and quickly move on, but we need to focus on this…it does seem to contradict so much of what the Bible tells us, like here as Paul quotes the prophet Joel here in Romans 10…

Romans 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” NIV

Remember what Jesus is doing, he is pointing to people who go to church, lead in churches, preach in His name, and call on His name and is saying, don’t look at what they say or how they look…look at the product or fruit of their lives.  Our lives speak to who we truly are.  We need to understand that saying yes to God as your Lord and Savior without life change, is us saying “no” to God. This is why Jesus would say that you can say the right words, but it’s your life and how you live it that matters…remember God doesn’t care how Christian we pretend to be, it’s who we truly are and how we truly live that matters. You reap what you sow.

Matthew 7:21 “Knowing the correct password — saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance — isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience — doing what my Father wills. 22 I can see it now — at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ 23 And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ MSG

You need to understand this…you reap what you sow.  You can look great, sound great, and say all the right things, but it’s how you choose to live your life that matters.  You can fool me, and I can fool you but, in the end, God cannot be tricked, and if you think looking Christian makes you Christian, well you are being misled.  If you think saying the right words in the right order gets you into Heaven, you are being misled.  God is focused on who you are, on your heart.  What is interesting to me is the very last thing Jesus does as He ends the Sermon on the Mount is to tell a story that is very similar to what we have been doing throughout this study of Proverbs.  He talks of two people, who build a house, both know how to build a house, and both have knowledge and intelligence on how to build the house but only one is wise…check this out.

Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” NLT

Do you see it?  It’s how you live your life that matters.  Your choices matter.  The wise build their home on the foundation of God, and the house stands, their lives reflect it.  The unwise, well they ignore the foundational work that needs to be done, their lives look good on the outside but are nothing on the inside, and when life hits…it all comes crashing down.  It leaves the unwise wondering why this happens and why life is so hard…but the reality is you reap what you sow.  The wise know it would be beautiful to enjoy a home on the sandy beach, but they don’t feed that desire, they choose to build properly…the unwise feed the desire and reaps what they sow…then sit in the wreckage of the home in ruins wondering why they have such poor luck, envious of the wise whose home is still standing, and angry at God for giving them such a hard life, ignoring the law of reaping what they sow.  Do you see it?  Jesus ends this amazing sermon and I want you to see what happens…

Matthew 7:28 When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. 29 It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying — quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard. MSG

It’s so interesting, isn’t it?  He concludes and they burst into applause…because Jesus was living everything out that He teaches…Jesus clearly reaps what He sows.  I wonder how many heard this, agreed with this, cheered, and burst into applause on that day, yet stood before Him and heard depart from me I never knew you on their day of accountability.  How many heard this, agreed, and lived differently?  How many did not?  Listen I know this is a challenging thought, but we love you here too much to not talk about this.  You reap what you sow.  This is such an important conversation on the most important yet ignored life principle we have.   You will harvest what you plant.  You will get out what you put into life, people, and even your relationship with God.  You might fool a lot of people, with who you are but you’re not going to fool God.  He knows you, and there is a day coming that we all know will come when we stand before the Lord and are held accountable even if we don’t feel or want to acknowledge this principle in our lives today, we reap what we sow.  The results of your life and what you experience come out of your choices and actions…you reap what you sow.  Let’s end with Paul’s words from Galatians and some questions…

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 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. NIV

Today we discussed the most ignored and important of all life principles, it’s the very thing that could change your entire life direction and your eternal destiny…the law of reaping what you sow.  And as we close, I want you to think this all through.  We all have the knowledge that we will stand before Jesus someday.  We are here at church; we love God and want to be on Jesus’ team…and all of us know that we reap what we sow…so what are you planting in your life?  Please take some time today and think this all through for yourself.  What choices are you making?  Do you do the least possible and expect the most from others and life?  Do you live for yourself and wonder why your life is so empty?  Do you choose to do life as you want to do it and then wonder why God isn’t giving you the life you want?  Do you choose to ignore your heart and God, and then wonder where God is in your life?  What you plant in your life you will harvest.  You reap what you sow.  Take some time and make some lists today.  Take an honest look at the good parts of your life, and the areas that you are struggling with.  This could be in your relationship with God, your marriage, your family, or your physical or emotional, or spiritual health, but look at those areas that you are struggling with.  Be honest.  Ask God to help you search your heart. Then look at the choices you are making that lead to each aspect of your life that isn’t what you want. Avoid having a victim mentality, don’t reason it away, don’t point fingers, and try not to blame others. That will not help. Take responsibility for your choices and stop ignoring this life principle and admit that you are reaping what you have sown.  Listen, this is the most challenging and ignored life principle in life, but grasping it and living it out will change your life. You must humble yourself, and live differently…but then if we call ourselves Christian, that is what we are already saying that we are doing…right?

If you don’t like what you’re reaping, change what you’re sowing. Because you reap what you sow.  This may be something we can ignore today, but a day of accountability will come, and standing before the Lord is not the day to finally grasp the reality of this law, that in the end you reap what you sow, and you will.  Yes, this is intense.  Yes, this is urgent…please, look at your life today, this concept is found all through Scripture.  The wise understand it, the unwise do not.  The wise have ownership of this and are living their best life possible.  The unwise can’t seem to understand why their lives are hard, their relationships are a struggle, and why they don’t have the same luck the wise have.  In the end, it comes down to the most important and ignored law found in Scripture.  You reap what you sow…what you plant you will harvest…so what is it that you are planting in your life?