Question: "Is 'you reap what you sow' biblical?"
Answer: According to the Bible, do you reap what you sow? The principle of sowing and reaping is common throughout the Bible, because it is something that humanity can relate to. The practice of working the ground to gain a harvest is nearly as old as humanity itself. Part of Adam’s curse was that the ground would bring forth thorns and thistles in response to his work and that “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:19). Adam understood the concept of “you reap what you sow” both literally and figuratively.
The idiom you reap what you sow is mostly likely directly referencing one of two verses in the New Testament. One is 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” The other is Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” As a general principle, it is true that sowing leads to reaping. It’s true in agriculture and it’s true in life choices. So, “you reap what you sow” is biblical.
There are Old Testament verses that also refer to the principle that we reap what we sow. “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster,” says King Solomon (Proverbs 22:8). “You have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil,” says the prophet (Hosea 10:13). “They will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes,” says Wisdom in Proverbs 1:31. In each case, the law of sowing and reaping goes back to God’s justice.
While there is the real spiritual principle at work that, if we sow bad things, we will reap bad things, there is also mercy. Graciously, we do not always reap what we sow. God reserves the right to show mercy on whomever He will, as He said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). It is because of the mercy and compassion of God that we can have a home in heaven, despite our sin. We sowed iniquity and corruption, and Jesus reaped our punishment on the cross. May He be praised forever.
Sometimes, what looks like a harvest is not one. When Job was suffering, his friends considered the trouble as a just punishment from God for some secret sin. Job’s friend Eliphaz said: “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8). But Eliphaz was wrong. Job was not reaping what he had sown. The harvest had not come yet—and it would not come until the end of the book (Job 42:10–17). Experiencing negative circumstances does not necessarily mean we have sown negative things. The principle of reaping and sowing is generally true, but not always at work in every situation in the way we might expect.
“You reap what you sow” holds true both positively and negatively. “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” (Galatians 6:8). This verse summarizes the principle well. When we are selfish, proud, unjust, sinful, and trusting in our own ability or worth to save us, we are “sowing to the flesh,” and destruction awaits. But when we are selfless, generous, kind, and depending on God’s provision and salvation, we are “sowing to the Spirit” and will reap eternal life.
Faith in Jesus and the pursuit of godliness is “sowing to the Spirit.” Sowing to the flesh, depending on ourselves and our ability to find our own way without God’s help, will reap nothing but a dead end. But when we place our trust in Christ, we reap eternal life. His love is fertile ground.