Before concluding his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul encouraged his readers to persist in well-doing. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). Two years later, Paul would offer the same encouragement to the Thessalonian church which was slightly west of the Galatian region. “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thess 3:13). Paul recognized that the persistent difficulties of the Christian life, even if they did not lead one to forsake Christ, may still lure someone to give up on doing good to others. When we are tired and discouraged and a little disillusioned, it is easy to fold into ourselves and stop actively pursuing ministry fruitfulness. The apostle recognized that the Galatians and the Thessalonians needed a gentle reminder to keep on keepin’ on.
Paul was no stranger to the temptation to reduce his passion for gospel-grounded well-doing. As one who suffered in countless ways for Christ and even bore the physical marks of persecution, Paul would have had every excuse to back off for a season. But rather than taking a break from doing good, he rooted himself in the mercy of God and recalled the gospel stewardship that his Savior had entrusted to him. Two times in the span of sixteen verses, Paul declared to the Corinthians that he and his ministry partners “do not lose heart” (2 Cor 4:1; 16). The phrase “do not lose heart” in 2 Corinthians is the exact same phrase that is translated “do not grow weary” in Galatians and 2 Thessalonians. Despite his intense suffering, Paul did not grow weary in doing good. We should listen carefully when he exhorts us to continue in well-doing.
Weariness seems to be the spoken and unspoken refrain these days. Coming into the eighth week of our shelter-in-place, we are experiencing more than just Zoom fatigue. Many of us are physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted; we are sensing a growing malaise and discouragement that is difficult to shake. Needless to say, we are growing weary of doing good.
But like the honeycomb that re-energized Jonathan after a long and wearisome day (1 Sam 14:27), God has provided us nourishing, divinely inspired texts to brighten our eyes and put us back on the path of doing good (2 Tim 3:16-17). Turning back to Galatians, let’s consider Paul’s remedy for discouragement.
What Will You Reap?
According to his common practice, Paul provides both an exhortation and the basis by which to obey the exhortation in the same sentence. The command, “Do not grow weary in doing good,” is followed by a grounding clause: “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). The word “for” signals that Paul is giving us a motivating reason for why we must obey the previous exhortation. In this case, the motivation is found in a future conditional promise: we will reap if we do not give up. What will we reap if we don’t give up? Paul tells us in the previous verse: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from his flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:8). The one who does not give up doing good will reap eternal life. But the one who gives up doing good will reap corruption. The word for corruption here is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “corruption,” “perish,” “perishable,” “destroy, “destruction” (e.g., Luke 12:33; Rom 8:21; 1 Cor 15:42, 50; Col 2:22; 2 Pet 2:12). Given the parallel with “eternal life” in Galatians 6:8, it is likely that Paul is saying that those who reap to the flesh will reap eternal corruption; namely, everlasting judgment.
This conclusion flavors Paul’s exhortation with real seriousness. Negatively, we are not to give up in doing good because to give up is an indication that we are not headed for eternal life. When we allow the difficulties and trials of life to cause us to forsake ministering to others and become consumed with ourselves, we are sowing to the flesh. A person who is characterized by devotion to self is offering strong evidence that they are not indwelt by the fruit-producing Spirit whose first priority is forming an others-focused love in the life of the believer (Gal 5:22-23; cf. 2 Tim 3:2).
Positively, we are to persevere in Spirit-empowered well-doing because we will soon reap an eternal inheritance that will make all the trouble worth it (see also 2 Cor 4:16-18). Those who continue to pursue Christ-centered good works in the midst of great difficulty demonstrate that they really believe the biblical promise of a future resurrection, a new heavens and new earth, and eternity in Christ’s presence (Rev 22:1-4). It’s no wonder why Paul rounds off his chapter on the resurrection with this admonition: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). Faith in an imperishable inheritance motivates us to keep plodding along the path of obedience and fruitfulness.
Doing Good to Whom?
But to whom are we to do good? Paul follows his exhortation by drawing the parameters. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). Happily, Paul does not restrict our calling to fruitfulness to one sphere of influence or group of people. While he teaches us to prioritize our brothers and sisters in Christ (“especially the household of faith”), he broadens the range of potential good works to include everyone with whom we “have opportunity” (see also 1 Thess 5:15). We can do good to church members, regular attenders, parents, neighbors, children, spouses, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, colleagues, fellow students, and so on. These good works can take the form of providing for urgent material needs (Titus 3:14), raising children, ministering to the saints, caring for the afflicted, and showing hospitality (1 Tim 5:10). We do good by conducting excellent work for our employer (Eph 6:5-9), showing generosity (1 Tim 6:18) and a myriad of other ways (Eph 2:10; Titus 2:14).
So, brothers and sisters, you may be feeling weary, as though the best thing to do is to binge-watch some Netflix, hunker down, and wait for May 31st. Scripture encourages you to resist that temptation and keep doing good. It will be worth it; if not in June, in eternity. That’s a promise.