God’s Law of Sowing and Reaping

Title: God's Law of Sowing and Reaping

Bible Book: Jeremiah 12 : 13

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Sowing and Reaping



You would have to know how John’s mind works to fully appreciate what I am about to tell you. John, my older son, is an attorney, the father of our little Abigail. Not to worry, I have no pictures to show you and no stories to tell. I hate it when grandparents keep on telling about their grandchildren, especially when the interrupt me! John and I have a special relationship. We always have. I understand John, whether anyone else would or not. That is the reason I was not overly surprised when the gave me an MP3 disk before I drove to Nashville for the inauguration of Dr. Thom Rainer as president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

John handed me the disk, knowing that my new car could handle MP3 disks. I didn’t even know what MP3 stood for at the time! Sounded like something military to me. John explained, “I have a lot of Charlie Pride songs on here, some other music and other things. At the end you will find Pay Day Some Day. I knew he meant R. G. Lee’s Pay Day Some Day. That took me back to my youth when I heard Dr. Lee every Sunday on TV. Just as soon as we returned home from our services, we turned on the TV, usually as Dr. Lee came to the pulpit, kneeled to his right side of the pulpit in his white Palm Beach suit and prayed in his old, pleasing South Carolina drawl. I heard him preach Pay Day Some Day in person when I was still a teenager. I have a video tape of Dr. Lee preaching that famous sermon. As a matter of fact, that may well be the second most famous sermon in the history of America. Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, is better known, if for no other reason than the fact that liberal professors have referred to it to try to portray Jonathan Edwards as some ignorant, emotional boob. Some of those professors would have been challenged to understand a Jonathan Edwards sermon, even though his congregation understood him.

Jonathan Edwards preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God one time. R. G. Lee preached Pay Day some Day over 1200 times. And there is no telling how many others have tried to preach it! I doubt that there are many preachers who ever heard him preach Pay Day Some Day who have not thought of that sermon when they preached about Elijah and Ahab. I know recall his description of the “old toad squatted on the throne of Israel”, and the vile “adder coiled by the throne.” By the way, he called Jezebel a “gay, gaudy genie.”

I played Pay Day Some Day before I left for Nashville, and then I played it again on the way to our meeting. Okay, I played it again on the way home. That sermon is an hour long, but I never heard anyone complain about the length of Dr. Lee’s sermons. People sit in the pew hoping their pastor will not stop at 12:00 noon. We were afraid Dr. Lee would! As a matter of fact, I was watching one Sunday when he suddenly whirled and pointed toward the camera and shouted, “AND DON’T YOU TURN ME OFF!!!” We missed fifteen minutes of the noon news on a network station that day!
Dr. Lee declared in that famous sermon, “God’s law of Pay Day Some Day is written in the constitution of the universe.” I am hear today to tell you that God’s law of sowing and reaping is written in the constitution of the universe! God’s Law of Sowing and Reaping has been in effect since Adam sowed to sin and reaped death.


A. Judah Had Sown the Seeds of Rebellion.

Here is the Lord’s indictment against Judah - not Jeremiah’s indictment, the Lord’s:

“Here is what the Lord says: What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves? They stopped asking: Where is the Lord who brought us from the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, through a land of drought and darkness, a land no one traveled through and where no one lived?” (Jer. 2:5-6)

The Lord continues:

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat its fruit and bounty, but after you entered, you defiled My land; you made My inheritance detestable. The priests quit asking: Where is the Lord? The experts in the law no longer knew Me, and the rulers rebelled against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal and followed useless idols” (Jer. 2:7-8).

We have seen the indictment, now look at God’s “therefore”:

“Therefore, I will bring a case against you again. [This is] the Lord’s declaration. I will bring a case against your children’s children. Cross over to Cyprus and take a look. Send [someone] to Kedar and consider carefully; see if there has ever been anything like this?” (Jer. 2:9-10).

Now, the Lord, in His holiness, declares:

“Has a nation [ever] exchanged its gods? (but they were not gods!) Yet My people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols. Be horrified at this, heavens; be shocked and utterly appalled. [This is] the Lord’s declaration. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer 2:11-13).

B. God States His Law of Sowing and Reaping, Jer. 12:13-17.

“They have sown wheat but harvested thorns. They have exhausted themselves but have no profit. Be put to shame by your harvests because of the Lord’s burning anger.” (12:13).

God’s law of sowing and reaping really is written in the constitution of the universe, with applications both here and now, and spiritually speaking throughout eternity. The Lord continues:

“This is what the Lord says: “Concerning all My evil neighbors who attack the inheritance that I bequeathed to My people, Israel, I am about to uproot them from their land, and I will uproot the house of Judah from among them. After I have uprooted them, I will once again have compassion on them and return each one to his inheritance and to his land. If they will diligently learn the ways of My people —to swear by My name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ just as they taught My people to swear by Baal—they will be built up among My people. However, if they will not obey, then I will uproot and destroy that nation” (Jer 12:13-17, HCSB).

The Lord stated the conditions for his blessings over and over, in many and various ways. He also stated the consequences of rebelling against Him and His Law. They could not plead ignorance if they chose to turn their backs on Him.


A. It Was in Effect Throughout the Old Testament.

We see it in the Wisdom Literature and in the Prophets.

The wicked earneth deceitful wages; But he that soweth righteousness hath a sure reward, Pro. 11:18.

He that soweth iniquity shall reap calamity; And the rod of his wrath shall fail, Pro. 22:8.

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind... ,Hos. 8:7.

Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity..., Hos. 8:7.

B. Paul Stress the Law In Galatians 6:7-8.

“Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Gal 6:7-8).

When I was still a teenager, I prepared a sermon and “borrowed” the title: GOD'S LAW OF SOWING AND REAPING. Hey, I could have used SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD, or possibly, PAY DAY SOME DAY! I had never heard of plagiarism in those days, and really don’t think it ever reached the Green River community, seven miles west of Sledge, MS. Now, I will give full credit for the title, and no doubt a few points in the sermon to Dwight L. Moody.

Following my Junior year in high school, I was one of three students my English teacher, Miss Hicks, took to Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly in North Carolina for Youth Week. I am afraid public school teachers like that may be going the way of the dinosaur in this post-Christian age, but I will never forget the contribution this godly lady made to the lives of three of her students. It was a mountain-peak experience for me and I gleaned all I could from each moment. While browsing through the book store I found a book that I just knew would be a lot of help to me since the Lord had called me to preach the Gospel when I was thirteen years old. It was four years later when I went to Ridgecrest, but I stilled never dreamed that you could buy a book filled with sermon outlines! I bought the book for two or three dollars and began skimming the outlines.

I have no idea what happened to the book, or remember how many, if any of the outlines I might have used, but there is one I shall never forget. It was an outline by Dwight L. Moody entitled “God’s Law of Sowing and Reaping.” I spent most of that summer driving a John Deere tractor on our family farm near Sledge, Mississippi. I recalled this particular outline one day while plowing cotton and related it to what I saw in those Mississippi Delta cotton fields. While observing the application of this law in the natural realm I composed a sermon around the three points I recalled and preached it in a few churches. As a student at Mississippi College, I had preached each week at the Hinds County Jail in Jackson and early each Sunday morning at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. I felt led on a number of occasions to preach from this passage, adapting the message as the situation dictated and as I was led by the Holy Spirit. You may question preaching such a confrontational message to men who were serving time in Parchman for crimes, but in that day they expected no less. They didn’t dance around issues and they didn’t want me to, either. Let me share my basic outline with you, plus a few added notes:


A. In the Physical Realm a Farmer Expects to Reap When He Sows.

I grew up on a farm and believe me, you did not plant seed unless you expected a harvest. If a farmer had buckshot, or gumbo, he did everything he could to get his cotton picked in the fall in time to break the land for spring planting. That way, the large slabs of buckshot that rolled into rows would have an opportunity dissolve over the winter. Believe me, that land needed the rain, snow, and freezing temperatures to melt the soil into a solid row. In sandy land, the farmer could wait until spring to break the land, which had the advantage of allowing him to plant a cover crop to improve the soil because of the nitrogen a cover crop like Vetch would add to the soil.

I can remember times when my father had to bundle up in everything he could wear and break the land in the winter while it was frozen so the tractor would not get stuck in the mud. This was before thinsulate and other insulating fabrics. When I think of my Daddy sitting on that tractor for ten hours in freezing temperatures my heart still aches for him. I can assure you that no one would go through all of that if he did not expect the harvest the follow.

B. The Bible Clearly Reveals That God's Law of Sowing and Reaping

Has Been in Effect in the Moral Realm Since Adam.

Adam sowed to sin and reaped death. Jacob sowed to deceit and reaped a life time of heartache. Joseph sowed to arrogance and pride and reaped in bondage. His deliverance and promotion in Egypt was all the work of God, not Joseph. Moses sowed in anger and reaped in disappointment, blessed with the view, but denied the right to enter the Promised Land. David sowed to immorality and reaped in anguish, torment, and grief. Uzziah sowed the seeds of irreverence and reaped in leprosy.


A. In the Physical Realm a Farmer Expects to Reap the Same Kind of Seed He Sows.

When we planted cotton we expected to pick cotton in the fall. When we planted soy beans we expected to cut soy beans in the fall. I was talking with Joseph Womack right after I became his pastor, when I asked about when he would begin cutting his beans. He said, “I have two sons-in-law, one is a farmer and the other one lives in Houston. One would ask just what you did. “When are you going to start cutting your beans?’ The other one is very intelligent, but he doesn’t know farming first hand. He would say, ‘When will you begin harvesting your soy beans?”

I have never seen this law violated. I did see a confused farmer once who thought he had sown one kind of seed and the plant he had growing in his field was proof that a mistake had been made. He planted some kind of grass seed and what he showed me was a field full of plants that looked like a cross between sorghum and Johnson Grass. I had no idea what it was. Neither did the Co-Op that sold him the seed. The company was going to have to pay the farmer for the crop - what ever it was. The farmer didn’t get what he expected, but he never doubted the principle. You get what you sow!

B. In the Spiritual Realm You Can Expect to Reap the same Kind of Seed You Sow.

This is the point I often made when I was preaching or talking with people at Parchman. Some men were there because of violent crimes, some because of a burglary or robbery. George, Chaplain Roscoe Hicks’ prison assistant, was from Oklahoma and he was serving time for breaking into a store in Jackson, Mississippi. When I knew him, and I spent a lot of time talking with him, he was waiting for an early release date so he could get out and go to work for the owners of the store he had burglarized. The wife of the owner was the state WMU Director for the Mississippi Baptist Convention, and they forgave him and did everything they could to help him get an early release.

You may wonder why a man would do what George did. His grandfather, he said, “was superintendent of his Sunday School back in Oklahoma for fifty years.” Why would George do what he did? I had an opportunity to visit with the most notorious criminal in the history of Mississippi eight days before he died. Kenny Wagner was the most admired man at Parchman. Prisoners were in awe of him. He trained the bloodhounds and when a prisoner escaped, he went after them. As one official said, “If a dog led him to a house in the Drew, Mississippi area, and if the dog’s nose touched a door, Kenny Wagner stuck his foot through it and stepped in with a .38 in his hand. He always took them back. I asked him if he agreed with the statistic I had read in the Jackson Clarion Ledger that stated that alcohol was involved in 94.6% of the cases in which someone is convicted of a crime. Kenny Wagner, everyone’s hero at Parchman, said, “It’s higher than that. It is involved in all of them.” His was not a scientific study, just his opinion, but an opinion based on personal knowledge of prisoners.

Every person who drinks an alcoholic beverage will not end up in a state penitentiary, but a disturbing percentage of those who sow to alcohol (or drugs) are going to reap a harvest of grief, divorce, separation from those who love them, health problems, abuse, crime. All will not reap that horrible harvest, but a disturbing number will. I cannot see why Christians would support an industry that preys on the weakness of the weakest of their customers. It is still an “unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

Now, let me stress that while I do believe this law is in effect today, I have not claimed that God has given me some “word of knowledge” or other revelation that allows me to make an application in every situation. Bill (not his real name) had been marshal at Lambert, Mississippi. His wife had left him and taken their two children to her mother’s home in a nearby town. He went to see his children and this mother-in-law refused to let him come into the house. She finally said, “Over my dead body!” That is exactly how he entered the house. He had only served two years for killing his mother-in-law when he asked me to write a letter to the governor to see if he would help him get out of prison. The next summer, I was working for the Quitman County ASCS when I went to a farmer near where the crime had taken place. I told the farmer with whom I was working that the man had asked me to write a letter for him. I stressed, “After serving only two years for killing his mother-in-law!” The farmer said, rather matter of factly, now that I think about it, “Well, some people around here think they should have given him a medal for killing that woman.” I didn’t ask any questions, but it didn’t keep me from wondering!


A. No Farmer Would Go to All the Work and Expense of Sowing

If He Did Not Expect to Harvest More Than He Sows.

I worked for a division of the USDA while going to school and I discovered that farmers planted 18 - 20 pounds of delinted cotton seed in the spring, hoping to harvest two to three five hundred pound bales of cotton in the fall. We planted a bushel of soy beans, trusting that we would cut anywhere from 20 to 40 bushels of beans in the fall, depending on the rain we got during the growing season. In the physical realm. When you sow, you expect to reap, and you expect to reap more than you sow. We must also apply that in the spiritual realm.

Years ago, I preached a revival in Greenville, Mississippi. My nephew Todd sent word by a family member, “Tell Uncle Johnny I cannot come to the revival because we are picking cotton. Tell him that we picked 160 bales on 40 acres. We started picking at night and the cotton kept popping the doors to the header open, so we moved to another field and came back to that one in the day time. When I worked for the USDA, during and right after school, I made field counts for the Statistical Reporting Service. One farmer complained that we could count four bales on the stalk, but when he picked it he never got more than three bales. I knew a lot of farmers who would have loved to
have picked two bales to the acre. The point is, we expect to harvest more than we sow or plant.
B. In the Spiritual Realm the Harvest Will Be Far Greater Than the
Seeds Sown.

A farmer plants anywhere from 14 - 18 pounds of acid delinted cotton seed in the spring, expecting to pick 1,000 - 1500 pounds of cotton in the fall. He may be disappointed, but he can still dream. In the spiritual realm, this principle is applicable. The future will be the harvest of the seeds we sow now. The harvest will be much greater than the seed we sow. Furthermore, there will be no crop failure in the spiritual realm. You will reap what you sow. Sow to the flesh and reap corruption (rotten flesh). Sow to the spirit and reap eternal life.

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith” (Gal 6:9-10).

Now, let me stress this very important point. This does not teach that you are saved by good works. What it teaches is that those who reject Jesus Christ have committed themselves to sowing to the flesh and they will reap corruption. Those who receive Jesus Christ are given eternal life. They do not work for their salvation, they work because they are saved.

I read about a farmer whose wife invited their new pastor and his wife to eat Sunday dinner with them. The pastor and his wife arrived and the pastor’s wife went inside to visit with the farmer’s wife, and the men visited on the front porch. The pastor looked out to one side of the house and saw the most beautiful garden he thought he had ever seen. He did not know it but, it was newly cleared land. It had been grown up in weeds, seedlings, saplings, and trees. The pastor said, “You and the Lord certainly have a beautiful garden.” The farmer said, “You should have seen it last year when the Lord had it to Himself.” The Lord may give you a garden, but you are going to have to prepare the soil, plant the seed, cultivate and prune the plants, if you expect to reap a bountiful harvest.

A. God’s Law Is Still in Effect in the Physical Realm.

We see it everywhere. Agriculture has changed but the principle remains the same. People sow or plant in anticipation of a harvest, and the harvest is the fulfillment of the hope with which one plants.
Farmers no longer plant with mules or horses. In fact, the tractors and implements they used today do not even resemble those old John Deere tractors I used to drive on our farm. I remember when we moved from a one row, mule drawn planter, to a two row planter attached to a tractor, to four row implements. Now, they level the land and bigger tractors plant eight or ten rows at a time. Regardless of the equipment or the kind of seed planted, the principle is the same. You plant the seed, looking to the harvest.

I could hardly believe it when I was driving from Dallas to Amarilla and looked off to the side of the road and saw green cotton plants that were only about knee high - in September. In the Mississippi or Louisiana delta if you had seen cotton at that stage you would have known that it was June. Two years later, I took my camera and stopped to get some shots of that cotton. Recently, I talked with a man who grew up in that area and went on to earn a degree in mechanical agriculture. I suppose that means he got a degree in tractors. I didn’t know the gave degrees for that or I would have applied for a graduate degree.

My friend explained that in that soil they did not make the kind of crops we make in Mississippi and Louisiana, so they plant a variety of cotton that will produce cotton on a low stalk which is suited for a mechanical stripper rather than a mechanical cotton picker. The harvest is not as great and the process is different, but the principle of sowing and reaping is the same.

B. The Principle Applies in the Moral and Spiritual Realm Today.

The world is changing faster than we would like to see it, but the law of sowing and reaping, Dr. Lee’s law of Pay Day Some Day, remains the same. The principle applies in the moral and legal realm. Prisons are crowded with men and women who have committed crimes and now they are paying the price for their actions. Even after many years, I vividly recall the twenty-two year old young man who in a drunken rage beat and strangled a young woman to death. She was not an innocent young woman. She had run off with a man and when she became pregnant he ran off and left her. Tommy told her she could move in with him - he told her he could handle the fact that she was pregnant with someone else’s baby, but later, in his drunken condition, decided that he couldn’t handle it. I cringe to think of how she suffered during that attack. She had sown to immorality and reaped the harvest of death.

In jail and sober, this man was desperate for help. Someone convinced him to listen to me and he was saved while in a county jail. He still owed a debt to society. He sowed to murder and reaped a life behind bars. I saw him at Parchman and I know he was reaping the harvest of the seed he had sown in the flesh - and deservedly so. Yet, he had begun to sow to the spirit and the harvest will be eternal. I will go a step further. This man owed a debt to society, but once he had elected to sow to the spirit I would trust him a lot further than I would trust some church members I have known.

Dwight L. Moody said he once preached on this subject and a young man back toward the back stood up and challenged him: “I don’t believe that.” Moody said, “Young man, it does not matter whether you believe it or not. Truth is truth whether you believe it or not, and a lie is a lie whether you believe it or not.” At the close of the service a police officer was waiting at the door to arrest the young man when he left the building. Moody said, “I have no doubt that he saw that the law of sowing and reaping is in effect in the moral and legal realm.”

When Jonathan Edwards preached has famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, people, we are told, were hanging onto anything they could take hold of, fearing they were plunging right then into the lake of fire. An English teacher talked with her class about Jonathan Edwards and his famous sermon in an effort to label him a fanatic, and by association, those who agree with him. The fact is, Jonathan Edwards was an intellectual, not an emotional evangelist with no knowledge of the Bible. When he delivered that sermon he never raised his voice and used no gestures. The fear in that service came from the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. We would do well to leave more of that to Him today.


If this is not enough to make the case for God’s Law of Sowing and Reaping, we could go on and on, listing examples as well as quoting passages from the Bible. When we sow seeds we can expect to reap a harvest. Listen again to this law as stated by the Lord Himself in Jeremiah 12:13: “They have sown wheat but harvested thorns. They have exhausted themselves but have no profit. Be put to shame by your harvests because of the Lord’s burning anger.”

Listen again to the Paul expresses it :“Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Gal 6:7-8).

The future is the harvest of the seed sown today. But right here, I would like to add something that is very important. As I stated earlier, I developed a sermon on this passage while driving a John Deere tractor while I was still a teenager. If you remember the John Deere commercial, “Nothing runs like a Deere”, I might add that farmers today had better be glad they don’t all run like the first John Deere tractors I drove! Some of them were slow, small, and rough. And hot. Very hot.

While plowing cotton in those days before pre-emergence chemicals, I observed that on a wet year, we had to really battle grass, weeds, and vines. That is when I made a connection. There are certain things that will cause a crop failure. Too much rain. Not enough rain. An infestation of boll weevils. And then there are the big three: grass, weeds, and vines. The grass would come up all around the young cotton plants and rob the plant of needed nutrients. The weeds would get up above the cotton and shut out the sunlight. Vines would wrap themselves around the plants, robbing it of nutrition, light, and air. These things, if left alone would guarantee a crop failure.

I have never seen a cotton plant that was robbed of nutrients by grass, shut off from the sun by weeds, and entangled by vines to the point that it was robbed of nutrients, sunlight, and air ever free itself from those things that crowded, smothered, and weakened it. I have never seen cotton plants that have gone on the offensive and destroyed the grass, weeds, and vines. I have never seen an individual whose life was robbed of spiritual nourishment by the grass of sin, denied the heavenly Son Light essential to life and growth by the weeds of transgression, and zapped of all strength by the vines of iniquity who ever freed himself from such bondage. The farmer must free the cotton plant if there is to be an abundant harvest. God must free the individual who has become a slave to sin, transgression, and iniquity.

The lost person must trust Jesus for His salvation. The Christian who sows to the flesh cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved unto good works. If you are not honoring the Lord and serving Him, he will forgive you and give you another opportunity. Be sure, however, that “if you sow to the flesh you will reap corruption.” But if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal benefits.

Dr. Lee quotes, in Pay Day Some Day, Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “Autobiography of a Sinner”:

This is the price I pay,
Just for one riotous day;
Years of regret and grief
And sorrows without relief.

Suffer it I will, my friend.
Suffer it to the end,
Until the grave shall give relief.
Small was the thing I bought,
Small was the thing at best,
Small was the debt, I thought,
But, Oh God, the interest.

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith” (Gal 6:9-10).

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