Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Scripture often speaks of seed time and harvest, sowing and reaping. When God speaks to us in these terms, He uses a figure with a deep spiritual meaning that is based on the agricultural economy of Israel and that is very familiar to us today. God is the Lord of the harvest to whom we pray for laborers (preachers) that may go forth into His harvest (Matt. 9:38). He is the Husbandman who tends His vineyard, cutting off unfruitful branches and purging the fruitful branches that they may bring forth more fruit (John 15:1, 2). Christ is the firstfruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15:20); His resurrection marks the beginning of a great harvest that will not be completed until the last elect is born, saved, and brought to heaven. According to the parable of the Tares and the Wheat (Matt. 13:37-43), the harvest is the end of the world, and the angels are the reapers who gather the wicked that they may be destroyed and the righteous that they may shine forth as the sun. And finally there is the steady emphasis in Scripture that all men are busy sowing and reaping. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

The key point is that there is a strict correspondence in kind between sowing and reaping. You reap what you sow. “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” (Gal. 6:8). If a man puts in the ground, as it were, sinful words and corrupt deeds, he reaps in kind: death and destruction; but if a man sows words that minister grace and deeds of love, he receives life everlasting. Another point: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (II Cor. 9:6). That is true in agriculture, and that is true before the face of God. There are degrees of punishment, and there are degrees in heavenly glory and reward.

Scripture is replete with warnings to the unfaithful, slothful members of the church. They that plow iniquity and sow wickedness reap the same (Job 4:8). He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity (Prof. 22:8). The wicked may sow wheat, but they shall reap thorns (Jer. 12:13). They sow the wind, but shall reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). In order to excuse themselves, the wicked accuse Jesus of reaping that He didst not sow (Luke 19:22), but Jesus would have none of that. “Take from him that pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.”

It is striking that the child of God is encouraged to sow good works especially in respect to the poor and in respect to ministers of the gospel. The Israelites were instructed to leave the corners of their fields unharvested and some of their grapes ungleaned, that the poor and the stranger might have food (Lev. 19:9, 10). And Paul instructs us that continuing in well doing includes doing good unto all men, especially them who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). This sowing in well doing also requires of those who are taught in the Word to communicate (give) to those who teach in all good things (Gal. 6:6). For, says Paul, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” (I Cor. 9:11).

Sowing in the Spirit can be very difficult for us, because though the spirit is willing the flesh is weak. How easy to sow to the flesh! How hard to sow to the Spirit! “Those that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Ps. 126:5). This difficulty is recognized by the apostle in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Why might the child of God become weary and faint? Because we shall reap when Christ returns at the end of the world, the seeming delay of His coming may cause us to grow faint. Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12), but that promise was made two thousand years ago! Why does He not come? Life is so long. History goes on and on.

There are other reasons. Perhaps there is ingratitude on the part of those we seek to help. We try to restore a brother overtaken in a fault, but he reacts in anger. We give counsel and advice, but it is not followed. Besides, if we continue in well doing, the world does not leave us alone, but marks us for persecution. Young people in the church who sincerely desire to live a godly life might say, “What’s the use? Everyone else seems to be interested in the wrong and not the right. No one notices that I do the right anyway. And are my feeble attempts at well doing really noticed by God and rewarded by God?”

In respect to all those doubts and inclinations, the promise of God is, “We shall reap, if we faint not!” The day of harvest shall surely come; in fact, it has begun with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But we shall reap in “due season.” This refers to a fixed and definite time, a proper and suitable time. It would not be proper for Christ to return at some point before this time. That would be premature; that would result in a partial harvest, for He cannot come until the last elect is born and comes to repentance (II Pet. 3:9). As the farmer must exercise patience for the coming harvest, having prepared the soil and sown; as the husbandman has long patience for the early and latter rains and then the precious fruit (James 5:7); so must we be patient. So must we stablish our hearts in the Word of God. For the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:12).