“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:7-9
When I was a kid, I often heard about chickens coming home to roost. I had no clue what that expression meant; I always assumed it had something to do with angry chickens because the tone connected with the saying was always one step shy of pissed off. As I got older, I realized it was the redneck version of karma – when people put bad juju into the world, they get bad juju back.
By the time I was a teenager, I picked up on the same sentiment in other expressions. The most common was, “Well, you reap what you sow.”
That one was from Scripture. Specifically Galatians 6:7. The Apostle Paul is writing to a fledgling church about being careful to do good to those around them, and it was easy for the community in which I grew up to grab on to that message. It was vital to our survival; we needed folks to do good to others, because any of us could easily be the other in need of good. It was an encouragement to righteous living rooted in the reality of being poor.
What I never really picked up on was what constituted “good.” True, giving money when people needed it was good, unless they were a stranger or had used your money unwisely in the past. Giving people food was also good, unless they were lazy and “wouldn’t hit a lick at a snake.” If I’m being honest, doing good was often defined as meeting whatever need arose – provided the person in need was worthy.
And the definition of worthiness was shifty. Some people were worthy because they were “good folks” who were just going through “rough times.” What made them good was familiarity to the community, or an outward appearance of what we considered “decency.” Other people, living in much the same conditions, were bad – either because of skin color, or history, or an outward defiance of our considered morals. They were not worthy.
Growing up, I felt there was a disconnect, but I never spoke up. Instead, I internalized the distinctions and made it my mission to be good so I could be worthy, a habit I carried over into adulthood. It was only then that I discovered how my community defined good and worthy was radically different from how other communities defined the same terms. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure which end was up.
I bring this up because we are a nation obsessed with sowing seeds. But we aren’t considering the seeds we’re sowing.
Take the GOP. In the name of family values and conservatism they’ve sown seeds of racial division and strife. They’ve sown seeds that turned companies into people and people into numbers on a bottom line. They’ve sown seeds of power worship and fear, and made politics into a bloodsport.
Or take the DNC. In the name of fairness and justice, they’ve sown seeds of racial division and strife. They’ve sown seeds that have turned companies into demons and people into numbers on an EBT card. They’ve sown seeds of forced tolerance and fear, and made politics into a bloodsport.
If you were to ask anyone from inside either party if that was their goal, I very much doubt anyone would say yes. Instead, I’d wager the response would hew closer to, “We’re trying to do what we believe is right.” The seeds they’ve sown were sown in good faith, sown in the belief that their understanding of right and wrong, of worthiness and unworthiness, was the correct interpretation.
The response within the electorate has been similar to what I experienced as a child: people feel the disconnect, but instead of speaking up, they simply try to conform to the ideology that best suits where they’d like to call home. In trying to be worthy, people have tied themselves in knots, and the resulting anger has risen to the surface with this election.
That anger, that confusion, nets you major political parties that look like Harvey Two-Face and want to eliminate any voice that doesn’t sound like theirs.
The Law of Unintended Consquences is defined as the unanticipated or unintended results of the actions of people, especially government. It’s how a push for tolerance ends up criminalizing speech, or how a push for protecting life ends up taking lives instead. It’s not something we can avoid – no human knows what the future holds – but it used to be something we understood. Once upon a time, we considered the seeds being sown, and the potential crops they might yield.
Sadly, we no longer do that. Instead, we have candidates that promise outrageous fantasies, and a populace that feasts on each deluded word.
The truth of seed sowing has always been that it’s not how much you sow, but what. Our culture and society has made some drastic shifts in the past few decades as seeds sown by earlier generations have born their fruit. We’ve seen varying results from the seeds of civil rights, religion, relationships, business, foreign relations, and more – and how we respond to those shifts is entirely up to us. Sadly, it seems like we’re more interested in continuing to sow seeds without thought, of throwing our ideological grains to the wind in the hopes that by sowing more we’ll somehow get a better product.
If we want a better nation moving forward, if we want better families, churches, businesses, marriages, schools – better anything – then we need to look down at the seeds in our own hand and ask ourselves if they’re really, truly worth sowing.
Because we cannot afford to be deceived.