Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

From a distance, we’re able to observe how Christianity and the Gospel is brought to people in places all over the world. The Gospel is delivered to people in sub-Saharan Africa in a much different way than it is in America, (and many may argue that it’s done in a more efficient way.)

The Christian Church in the United States is declining.  We see it at Trinity in reduced numbers of people worshiping (even when there’s no pandemic!)  In 2008, 77% of Americans identified as Christian.  Just 10 years later, that percentage dropped to 65%, and it’s still declining. 

To make matters worse, the number of pastoral candidates graduating from our Concordia seminaries is shrinking, causing many churches to merge.  My brother said that while he was in seminary (about 12 years ago) he was told that most of those entering the ministry today should expect that at some point in their church work career, they will have to find employment outside their role of a pastor to supplement, if not replace, their salary as a pastor.

It’s another way in which the Christian Church in America is beginning to resemble the first century church.  Paul used his skill as a tentmaker to support himself as a missionary.  It is a tremendous blessing that Trinity is still able to financially support the work of Trinity’s ministerial staff in such a way that we do not have to split our time between Trinity and a job somewhere else.

  1. Are there blessings that might accompany a church whose pastors are also employed outside of the official ministry of Word and Sacrament?
  2. What would be a negative aspect of this scenario?

Luther’s Commentary on this verse is interesting because he admits he was a bit embarrassed by how often Paul wrote about the issue of financially supporting the work of the Gospel – because he witnessed firsthand how the pope and hierarchy of the church of his time lived lavishly and extravagantly at the expense of an already burdened peasant class. It wasn’t until he learned of the greater context into which Paul was writing that he understood the importance of this verse.  Here’s an excerpt:

We have come to understand why it is so necessary to repeat the admonition of this verse. When Satan cannot suppress the preaching of the Gospel by force he tries to accomplish his purpose by striking the ministers of the Gospel with poverty. He curtails their income to such an extent that they are forced out of the ministry because they cannot live by the Gospel. Without ministers to proclaim the Word of God the people go wild like savage beasts.

Here’s the entirety of Luther’s Commentary on this verse, in case you want to check it out.

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. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

As I read and reflect on these verses, my mind is drawn to what I’ve witnessed in the “doing good” that has taken place at Trinity over these past several weeks.  I’ve seen a lot of sowing in the Spirit going on. I’ve seen quarantined people desiring to meet the needs of those who belong to the family of believers in the inner city of Milwaukee.

And if it’s not the donation of groceries, it’s in the making of masks.  And if it’s not in the making of masks, it’s in the sending of notes and postcards of encouragement to brothers in sisters in Christ within the congregation.  I had one email from a member begging me to give her something to do.  And if it’s not in the sending of postcards or notes, it’s in making phone calls, just to check in and have a short conversation and prayer with a friend or acquaintance.

  1. Why is sowing an appropriate action verb to use for these actions?

At first glance, Paul seems to be preaching some sort of works righteousness – a man reaps what he sows…

  1. Why is this NOT works righteousness?
  2. Read Philippians 4:13 and Joshua 1:9. How can we avoid weariness in doing good?

Again, turning to Luther’s commentary, he writes this:

It is easy enough to do good once or twice, but to keep on doing good without getting disgusted with the ingratitude of those whom we have benefited, that is not so easy. Therefore, the Apostle does not only admonish us to do good, but to do good untiringly. For our encouragement he adds the promise: “For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” “Wait for the harvest and then you will reap the reward of your sowing to the Spirit. Think of that when you do good and the ingratitude of men will not stop you from doing good.”

In “Prodigal God,” author and pastor Tim Keller writes, that we must repent of the very reason we ever did anything good.”  He’s saying that in many cases, our good deeds often come with ulterior motives, motives that are not rooted in a love for God and others. 

  1. What is revealed within us if we find ourselves becoming embittered by a lack of gratitude from those of whom we are doing good?
  2. At such times, of what must we remind ourselves or do to reorient our thinking?

May God bless your study of His Word this week.  Please feel free to add your comments to any of the questions or of any insights you have from Galatians 6:6-10.

Peace in Christ,

Rick