The Bible is full of agrarian metaphors. One of the greatest of these metaphors is based on the principle of sowing and reaping. Sowing and reaping in the world of agriculture works like this: if a person plants a field with wheat seeds, that is, if a person sows wheat, then wheat is what will be harvested, or reaped. No corn or beans or squash or tomatoes will be harvested if wheat seed is what has been planted. Harvesting anything other than wheat from sown wheat seed is absolutely impossible.
The metaphor of sowing and reaping applied to people works like this: if a person touches fire, the result will be a burn. See, touching the fire is the sowing part—it is the seed that’s being sown. The one who sows the seed of touching the fire reaps a burn—the burn is the harvest, or the reaping part of the metaphor.
The sowing and reaping metaphor helps describe to hearers and readers of Scripture the natural progression of things according to the created order of God’s world. The metaphor helps warn us of the consequences resulting from certain actions. Some such things, of course, are just common sense. We know that if you play with fire, you get burned. If you sleep with dogs, you get fleas. If you fall down, you skin your knee. These things exemplify common sense sowing and reaping relationships.
But what is plain old common sense for wise adults is not so for children. Children need to experience the principle of sowing and reaping in the world. And this is where the problem comes in. As parents, we are often loathe to allow our children to reap what they sow. We often remove the consequences of our children’s actions to avoid “hurting their feelings” or “damaging their self esteem” or “breaking their spirits” or even to avoid physical pain. We manipulate the world so that our children can touch fire without getting burned. While we may indeed help our children avoid the unpleasant or even painful consequences of their actions, we are at the same time ensuring that they will remain spiritual dwarfs and not become wise.
A little perspective may be necessary here. Children obviously need our protection—that is our God ordained job as parents—but they need the right protection at the right time. Any parents who let their child climb to the top of the fence that separates the gorilla enclosure from the human portion of the zoo are just plain abdicating their God-ordained responsibility as parents. On the flip side, parents who protect their child from the negative consequences of turning in homework late, breaking a neighbor’s window, or stealing an apple are absolutely perverting created order. This is just the opposite of good parenting.
God created the world in such a way that our actions have consequences— sowing and reaping. We must teach our children just that. We must, in a way that takes into consideration the development and wisdom of our children, teach them that God will not be mocked—whatever we sow, that is what we will reap (Galatians 6:7).