The Law of Sowing and Reaping – Cause and Effect in Christian Parenting
By Mark Benedict
Today our society’s leaders and judges have rejected our Christian heritage and substituted the principles of humanism in its place. It is not surprising then, that we are witnessing an incredible breakdown, both in the family structure and society.
Today’s social decay is not unlike an earlier time in history when the Roman Empire was in a steep moral decline as a result of spiritual bankruptcy. We can take some comfort in knowing that it was in just such conditions as these we are experiencing today that the Gospel first brought light to the world of sinners. The conditions we are experiencing today are old news when it comes to the Bible. This is why we should take a close look at the things written in Scripture, as Paul said in 1 Cor. 10:11:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”
To understand how God works in families we must understand the scriptural principle of covenant relationship. Covenant relationship forms the basis of our marriage, family, and even church relationships. It is the basis of our salvation relationship with God. It is essential to the smooth functioning of any society because it provides the basic bonds of trust between husbands and wives, and between each member of society.
A covenant is a solemn agreement between two parties. In Christian marriage covenant, we exchange vows of faithfulness and love until death. At the heart of any covenant there are clearly described responsibilities and privileges for each party to the agreement. Our salvation is a covenant in which God promises to pardon our sins and secure our eternal salvation. We agree to trust him and give him full authority over our lives.
Throughout the scriptures God makes many promises on this covenant basis. Our relationship with God is through a covenant based on the atoning blood of Jesus. Some of his promises, such as those connected to our salvation are unconditional. Because of the intrinsic value of Christ’s sacrifice, once the blood of Christ is applied through faith in the Gospel an irrevocable act of salvation occurs. Our eternal destiny, once secured through saving faith in God’s Son, is unchangeable, by the simple fact that once God declares us justified, he does not change his mind. Our continued salvation does not depend on any act or continued actions on our part, but upon God’s faithfulness.
However, there are hundreds of scripture promises that are conditional upon our faithfulness.. These are spiritual cause and effect promises. Very simply, God promises he will do certain things in response to certain actions on our part. Many Christians experience spiritual defeat and disappointment because they confuse God’s unconditional promises with those requiring very specific acts of obedience and faithfulness on their part.
This is particularly true in regard to parenting. God has promised to do certain things on the basis of his covenant relationship with us. For the Christian parent there are many encouraging covenant promises regarding the protection and blessing of our families. But with almost every one of these promises God established specific conditions and commands concerning our duties and responsibilities. Many Christians latch on to specific promises which answer their needs while ignoring the requirements God established as pre-conditions. Not only is this unwise, it is dishonest!
During the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8, Solomon gave a detailed recitation of God’s covenant with the Israelites and their responsibilities under it.
1 Kings 8:22-25 “And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven: 23 And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:
Note the two responsibilities: God keeps his covenant of love; We, his servants, continue wholeheartedly in his way.
24 Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day. 4
God promises, then acts. When we enter covenant relationship with God we too must act to fulfill our responsibilities. This is especially true in Christian parenting.
25 Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me.”
God’s promise in this verse, as in many others, has specific conditions attached. In fact, when David’s sons failed to walk before God He removed them from the throne, just as he promised. See 2 Kings 24:3.
1 Kings 8:35-36 “When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them: 36 Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.”
God continually reacts to our actions with appropriate consequences. Here, Solomon expects God to withhold blessing (rain) to turn the people back to God when they sin against his holiness.
1 Kings 8:39-40 “Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) 40 That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers.”
God, as a covenant keeper, deals with us in accordance with our actions. This remains true even after we trust him as savior.
1 Kings 8:44-45 “If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name: 45 Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.”
Solomon, though confident God would uphold his people when they prayed with faith toward the temple, was equally confident God would personally deliver the Israelites into captivity to their enemies in response to their sin. This very clear statement of Solomon’s theology shows how he expected God to support his people only when they obeyed him. He clearly believed that God would quickly judge the Israelites for willful disobedience.
1 Kings 8:46-49 “If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; 47 Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; 48 And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: 49 Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,”
1 Kings 8:61 “Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.”
Verse 61 clearly states the primary ingredient for living every moment under God’s blessing — full and unqualified devotion and obedience to his Word and Will for your life.
In scripture, God promises to make children a blessing to parents, but this promise rightfully belongs to righteous parents who habitually obey his commandments. These covenant promises on the subject of Christian parenting are conditional. They require faithful adherence to God’s instructions as a precondition for his action on our behalf.
Many Christians overlook these scriptural qualifications just as they overlook the numerous warnings in scripture about the negative long-term consequences to families when parents and children deliberate violate God’s commandments. The apostle Paul warned in Gal 6:7-8:
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 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.”
This is a spiritual law reflecting God’s nature. It governs all human conduct. Since he gave us free will he designed his moral and spiritual government over the universe to reward the exercise of our will with appropriate consequences. When we choose to sin we experience negative consequences. Blessings follow when we choose righteousness. This principle is not very complicated, yet many believers unwisely believe that grace excludes the Christian from the law of spiritual cause and effect. This is not true at all!
God only exempts Christians from the normal law of sowing and reaping only through the specific application of God’s grace to our particular circumstances. God does not indiscriminately relieve of us from experiencing the consequences of our actions. Like any wise parent, he knows it is often best that we experience the results of our choices, even when they are unpleasant.
Fortunately, even when we sin God tempers his judgment with mercy. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. See Psalm 103:10. But Christians must never trifle with sin. All sin has very real, and sometimes long-lasting, consequences.
There are repentant former drug addicts and sexually promiscuous Christians who turned to God, repented, and believed in Christ. Yet, despite the exercise of saving faith, many continue to experience the side-effects from their former lifestyles in the form of AIDS and other diseases. Violation of God’s moral laws always has negative consequences. Subsequent repentance will not always free us from the residual results of disobedience. Christians should never be careless about sin. We ignore God’s warnings at our own peril. He is just as faithful to judge us with temporal punishment for our disobedience as he is to bless us when we honor him. The rules of cause and effect continue to impact our lives as long as we live.
So it is with parenting. The choices parents make will continue to influence their families for many years. God promised that spiritual carelessness and disobedience on the part of parents would be visited upon their children. His cycle of judgment cannot be broken except through genuine repentance and the application of his mercy. Fortunately, for those times when we have sinned there are clear instructions in the scriptures on how to seek God’s grace in our time of need.
To summarize, there are many specific promises in God’s word, both of blessing and judgment. As Christians, we are often selective in applying only the blessings to our own situation, but God is very faithful to do all that he has promised, both in blessing and judgment. Our present difficulties often result from our failure to wholeheartedly follow after God.