Do Not Grow Weary in Well-Doing
Probably the worst enemy of enthusiasm is time. Human beings have a remarkable and sad capacity for getting tired of wonderful things. Almost every one of you can think of something you were enthusiastic about recently, but now the joy is faded. Your first day of vacation on the coast the sunset was breathtaking and made you so happy you could sing. But by the end of your stay you hardly noticed it any more. Vacationers get tired of sunsets, millionaires get tired of money, kids gets tired of toys, and Christians get tired of doing good. At first the excitement of teaching that Sunday School class was strong, but now you have grown weary of well-doing. The thrill is gone. At first you felt clean and strong in the Holy Spirit as you drove the van, taught the Lao English, led the small group, visited the newcomers, started reading the Bible, worked in the emergency shelter . . . but now you have grown weary in well-doing. The inner power and joy have seeped away. It's a chore. You've lost heart.
Eternal Life and Death in the Balance
But Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart." It doesn't mean, of course, that you can never stop one job and start another. If you ask what the well-doing is that we must not tire of, probably the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22f. is the best answer: don't grow weary of being patient and kind and good and faithful and gentle and self-controlled. Don't grow weary of manifesting your peace and joy in all kinds of acts of love to your neighbors and associates and family. In short, don't lose heart in spending yourself through love, because if you do, the works of the flesh take over, and Paul says in 5:21, "Those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom." Or, as Paul says in 6:8, if you stop sowing to the Spirit and sow to your own flesh, you will not reap eternal life, but eternal corruption.
This is very controversial. Let it sink in. What is at stake in this text is eternal life; not merely sanctification, but also final salvation. Whether you go to heaven or whether you go to hell depends in some way on whether you grow weary in well-doing or not. The text is addressed to the church. Listen carefully, and note how the thought moves from verse 8 to verse 9: "He who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not (therefore!) grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart." You will reap eternal life, if you sow to the Spirit, that is, if you don't grow weary in well-doing. Because of texts like these I understand my role as a pastor-teacher to be not merely a means to your sanctification, but also a means to your salvation. This text is written to help bring the saints of Galatia to final salvation, eternal life. Therefore, a sermon from this text to the saints at Bethlehem should also aim to help bring you to final salvation or eternal life.
This view of preaching is widely rejected both in our Conference and throughout Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. I got a letter last year from a retired Conference pastor which closed like this: "In conclusion: We find, then, that a pastor's ministry is limited to a believer's state and not his standing. Therefore, our security and deliverance from the penal consequences of sin do not in any way have a relationship to a pastor's preaching." Over against that extremely widespread view of preaching, I appeal to your own insight into Galatians 6:8 and 9. Should I, as your pastor-teacher, deliver to you Paul's message? Should I speak to you the way the apostle spoke to the churches of Galatia? Is not the "corruption" of verse 8 the final penal consequence of sin? Is not "eternal life" in verse 8 the freedom from this consequence of sin? And is not our experience of the one or the other dependent in some way on whether we sow to the Spirit and don't grow weary in well-doing? And if so, ought not a pastor believe that his message from this text may be the divinely appointed means of causing God's children to persevere to the end in well-doing and so inherit eternal life?
My goal in life is to be a faithful teacher of God's Word for the good of his people and the glory of his name. I don't see how I could be faithful to this text and not tell you that if you grow weary in well-doing and lose heart, you will not reap eternal life. If you forsake the Spirit and rely on the flesh, you will reap corruption. (Cf. Romans 8:13.)
Bearing the Financial Burden of Teachers
That's what is at stake here. Now let's follow Paul's thought as it develops beginning in verse 6. You recall that in verse 2 he had said, "Bear one another's burdens." Verse 6 seems to give another example of burden-bearing—namely, the financial burden of Christian teachers. "Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches." One way to bear the burdens of those who carry major responsibilities of teaching in the church is to support them financially so that they can be free for prayer and study. Evidently there was some problem with this in Galatia. Perhaps they had made a good start, and now they were growing weary in well-doing—the well-doing of supporting the teaching elders in the church. Perhaps some were arguing that they are free in Christ and can use their money for other things. "Who needs teaching, anyway? We know enough of the truth. Money is scarce; these are hard times." We don't know what they were saying, but we do know that of all the burdens Paul could have mentioned, he chose to mention the material burden of those who teach God's Word.
He had learned the principle from Jesus. When Jesus sent out the 70 to preach, he told them not to take their own food because "the laborer deserves his wages." Paul picks this up in 1 Timothy 5:17, 18, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,' and, 'The laborer deserves his wages.'" Probably the closest parallel to Galatians 6:6 is 1 Corinthians 9:11 where Paul says, "If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits?"
The Ministry of the Word and Giving
I see four implications of Galatians 6:6 that I want to mention briefly. First, teaching the Word of God is essential in the church. We will not know the Lord as we ought if we go without sound teaching. Worship will become shallow, affections will become frothy, and obedience will languish where the whole counsel of God is not taught. Paul considered it essential.
Second, those who carry the main responsibility of teaching need freedom to study and meditate and pray. Finding the meaning of biblical texts, discovering how that meaning fits with the totality of revelation, and seeing its relationship to contemporary life week in and week out is a glorious calling—but it takes much time and effort. One of the things that makes me happy with my ministry at Bethlehem is that most of you know this and do not begrudge me the time I need for study. So that you'll know, in general, I devote Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings to prayer and study and meditation. Then, all day Friday and Saturday I prepare for the two messages on Sunday. There are inevitable interruptions for crisis situations (like weddings!). That's OK. I just thank God for your support in the part I have to play in this church.
Third, it follows that pastor-teachers should be paid so that they don't have to do other work to support themselves. Some, like Paul, may renounce this right, but those who are taught the Word ought to be eager to free up their teachers financially. And for that I thank you, too!
Fourth, when you give of your money to support the teaching ministry, you are fulfilling the law of Christ according to verse 2 (helping bear the teacher's burden), and you are not growing weary in well-doing (according to verse 9), but instead laying hold on eternal life. So when Paul says in verses 9 and 10 that we should not grow weary in well-doing and that we should do good to all especially to those of the household of faith, he has in mind at least the use of our money to support those who teach us the Word of God.
God Is Not Mocked
Verse 7 comes in now to reinforce the command of verse 6. "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." Evidently the people who did not want to share their goods with the teachers in the churches had fallen prey to some deception and were in effect mocking God by their action. Maybe they were saying: "For freedom Christ has set us free. You people that deny yourselves good things and pay to hear the Word of God—you're acting like Old Testament legalists." So in the name of freedom they had begun to indulge their flesh (contrary to the warning of 5:13). And even worse, they were treating the Word of God with contempt. God is mocked when his messengers are treated with scorn (2 Chronicles 36:15, 16).
But the text says, "God is not mocked." What does that mean? It means the same thing a good father means when he says to his child, "I will not be spoken to in that tone of voice!" That is, you will deeply regret using that tone of voice. Or, as Paul puts it, you will reap what you sow. "God is not mocked" means: if you treat his Word with scorn by not supporting the ministry of the Word, you will deeply regret it. And, "Don't be deceived!" he says. There is always a time lapse between sowing and reaping. You may be able to deceive yourself for a while that the sowing of selfishness is really going to yield more joy than sowing sacrifice for the sake of God's Word. But you are dead wrong: "God is not mocked!" Your disregard for his Word and your use of his trust fund for personal indulgences will come back upon your head like an avalanche.
"Where have you been?" said Elisha to Gehazi his servant. "Have you not run after Namaan for money? Are you not more greedy to line your pockets with gold than to magnify the God of Israel? Behold, the leprosy of Namaan shall cleave to you and to your descendants forever. God is not mocked. Your greed has come back upon your own head." (Cf. 2 Kings. 5:25–27.) Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.
"Where is your husband, Sapphira?" said Peter. "And did you really sell the land for so much? Why have you despised the ministry of the Word, plotted your own gain, and conspired to deceive the Lord? God is not mocked. Hark, the feet of those who buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out. Your greed has come back upon your own head." Whatever a woman sows, that will she also reap.
And so Paul is saying in verses 6 and 7: We honor God and his Word when we take money, which might have bought us some comfort or security or prestige, and give it to support the ministry of the Word (domestically and on the frontiers). But if we are deceived and think that more happiness comes from spending that money on our private pleasures, then we mock God, and our greed will come crashing back upon us. We will reap what we sow.
Sowing to the Flesh and to the Spirit
Finally, verse 8 makes clear what is really at stake and gives us hope. "For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." What is at stake in your attitude to the teaching of God's Word and the use of your goods is eternal life. I know that for some that sounds like a return to salvation by works which Paul has demolished in this letter. But it isn't. Works are the attitudes and actions of a heart that looks to itself for the achievement of virtue or contentment, which expects to be credited for its achievement. Nobody can save himself by such works. But love is not a work of the flesh; it is a fruit of the Spirit. We are not teaching salvation by works when we say that in order to enter final salvation, you must bear the fruit of the Spirit. All we are saying is what Paul says in Romans 8:14, "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."
Genuine conversion to Christ is not a mere human act of calling Christ our Savior. ("Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord' . . . but I will say, 'Depart from me. I never knew you!'") Genuine conversion is a divine act by which a Spirit of sonship is made to dwell in our heart (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6), giving us a hatred for sin and a love for righteousness (Ezekiel 36:27) and a confidence in the grace of Christ. We are converted when we hear the gospel and are moved to forsake our sin and put our faith in Christ for forgiveness and begin to walk by faith in his promise and power. There are attitudes toward money and toward the teaching of God's Word which cannot continue to coexist with true saving faith in the all-sufficiency of Christ. That's why Paul can say that even though salvation is by grace through faith, yet there are attitudes and actions which can destroy you.
The hope of verse 8 is that eternal life can be enjoyed simply by sowing to the Spirit. "He who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." What does this mean? I think it means that the Spirit is the field in which you work and which you hope will produce your harvest. If you look to "your own flesh" to produce the harvest of fulfillment, you will get corruption. But if you look to the Spirit, you will get life. Do you get up in the morning and feel a need for the power of the Spirit and seek his filling in the Word and prayer? Or when you get up, do you feel like there is no time to seek his fullness, and besides, this is a pretty normal day and I don't need much help. A prayer on the stairs will do!
When you get your paycheck, do you look to the Spirit for how to turn this money to best advantage for God's kingdom, or do you invest it in the field of the flesh for your own private use? Sowing to the Spirit means recognizing where the Spirit aims to produce some luscious fruit for the glory of God and dropping the seed of your resources in there. One of the places where the Spirit has promised to yield 30, 60, 100 fold is in the teaching of God's Word. Therefore, sowing to the Spirit means supporting pastors and teachers and missionaries with your money. There is more riding in that little white envelope on Sunday than you realize. Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap (eternal life!), if we do not faint.
© Desiring God Foundation. Distribution Guidelines
Share the Joy! You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org