When someone’s sinful conduct rebounded upon him, my dad would sometimes say, “He is stewing in his own juice.” Dad meant he was reaping what he had sown. This is a Bible concept, in both the good and bad sense. We do not really 46get away” with anything. Our deeds and thoughts are “naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Since we are in God’s world, where the very character of God is manifested in his creation; and since we will be eventually judged by our Creator; we should know that our well-being, now and in eternity, depends upon our living according to his rules. Three times in the first chapter of the Roman letter Paul indicates “God gave up” the pagan world to the consequences of their own conduct. He allowed them to “stew in their own juice.” There is a practical principle here for all of us: we carry in ourselves the seed of harvest, both temporal and eternal.
We are often self-deceived: thinking possessions can make us happy; our cunningness can reap the benefits of true wisdom; the snares we set for others can give us freedom. This is to proceed without reckoning with God and his principles of righteousness. Greed only heaps up treasures that “moth and rust corrupt.” The cunning are caught by others more cunning, and are usually overcome by the strength of honorable wisdom. The book of Proverbs is literally filled with such admonitions. “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city . . . ” but the destruction of the poor (by which he gain ed his wealth) eventually becomes his poverty (Prov. 10:15). “The integrity of the upright shall guide them; but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them” (11:3). If evil-doers seem to prosper (as indeed they do) remember the advice of the Psalmist: “Fret not thyself. “Evil-doers shall be cut off” (Psa. 37:7-11).
The prophet Habakkuk affords an excellent example of the principle we are discussing. Habakkuk recognized the sins of his people and cried out to God to do something about them. God revealed he was sending the Chaldeans to overrun and punish Judah for her sins. Habakkuk objected, “Holdest thy peace when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he?” (1:13) He was told “the righteous shall live by his faith” (f.n. “in his faithfulness,” 2:4). God has not forgotten his own.
But that is not all. The wicked Chaldeans, used by God to punish Judah, were still accountable for their deeds. The wine (of greed and pride) is treacherous. The very nations they had conquered would “take up a parable . . . a taunting proverb” against them (2:5f). There follows five “woes” promising them the fruit of their own wickedness. Habakkuk learned the true meaning of faith. He waited patiently for the punishment due Judah’s wickedness, and said, “Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (3:16f). He was now attuned to God’s judgments.
Reaping what we sow is also applicable in far less dramatic cases. Some girls use extreme makeup and tight clothing to throw themselves at the boys. They get a cheap date, cheap popularity, and eventually a cheap husband who likely holds marriage as a “cheap” arrangement. Later the divorced mother with children to support “stews in her own juice,” and just can’t figure out why it happened. I remember talking with a divorcee who told me each of her three husbands were alcoholics. I asked, “Where do you get. your husbands?” and was told she met them where she worked – in a bar. I do not say all divorces have such obvious cause-effect relations, but the general principle remains true: we sow the seed of our own harvest. The boy who is lazy, changes jobs-often, does sloppy work, and is a “clock watcher, ” finds it hard to understand why he finally runs out of jobs. The world does not treat him fairly; or does it?
Preachers try to “win debates” with trickery, character assassination, or unfair use of papers or pulpit – and are shunned or held at arms length by many brethren. Of course they can always say those brethren can not take “sound” teaching, but I wonder if they never take a look deep inside themselves. It is equally true that those who compromise truth and repeatedly excuse ungodly conduct may finally find themselves in the “liberal” camp. How did they get there? The “seed” produced their fruit. They may not feel the “stewing” now, but ultimate consequences are inevitable.
Retribution and judgment lie woven into the nature of creation, and are an integral part of God’s revealed will. We “program” our own destinies far more than we may realize, and we should not have to wait for the unchangeable final judgment to do something about it. Instead of blaming fate or “others” for our plight, we should take a hard look at our past, the seed of our present. In our yesterdays we were mixing the ingredients of today. We are storing up our eternal future by present lifestyles and response to God. That is one reason it is so hard to truly repent, to turn about, to “kill the old man.” But God’s goodness can have a great influence if we but give it consideration (Rom. 2:4f). We still have life, and with Christ that means hope. It is up to each of us to trust him, and begin sowing the seeds of an eternal inheritance.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 15, p. 455
August 6, 1987