"Find it, we did. And there be the chest... and inside, be the gold. We took them all! Spent 'em, traded 'em and fritted 'em away, for drink and food and pleasurable company... but we came to realize, the drink would not satisfy, food turned to ash in our mouths, nor the company in the world would harm or slake our lust. We are cursed men, Miss Turner. For too long I've been parched of thirst and unable to quench it. Too long I've been starving to death and haven't died. I feel nothing. Not the wind on my face nor the spray of the sea. Nor the warmth of a woman's flesh." - Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean
This is the insatiable craving that describes the torment of the Pirate's curse.
The pirates spent their lives seeking after the treasure and after finally attaining it, they discover that it was cursed. Instead of satisfying their empty souls, it only intensified their cravings. They needed more gold. More wine. More sex. They found themselves damned with the needing more ... forever.
The premise for the Pirate's curse un not unlike what Paul describes in Galatians:
Galatians 6:7-8 "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."
Despite the distorted claims of prosperity preachers, "sowing and reaping" here has nothing to do with finances. Paul uses sowing and reaping to illustrate an absolute law/gospel principle because it is an absolute agricultural principle - not an absolute financial principle.
Paul preached Jesus plus nothing = justification by faith.
The religious leaders preached Jesus + your law-keeping = justification by works.
Paul's "Sowing and reaping" language reinforced his appeal from his preceding 5 chapters: When it comes to justifying yourself, you are either trusting in something that is bringing you death (law) or life (gospel).
"Sowing to the flesh" and reaping corruption
Like the pirates curse, the human soul is in a state of unrest, looking for peace because of sin. So we need more gold. More wine. More sex. More validation. More acclaim. More followers. More toys. We tell ourselves that once we get that thing, we'll be happy ... until we discover the next thing is calling, promising rest to our restless hearts. So we sow to the flesh in liberalism: chasing and worshipping little gods, hoping they will somehow justify and save us.
Now, while that kind of 'sowing to the flesh' would describe rebellious Corinth - this is rule keeping Galatia.
The Galatians weren't suffering under the curse of liberalism - but legalism. They sowed to their flesh in a different way. The "Galatian pirates curse" looked like unrest under guilt of religious "you-should-be-doing-more-ianity"
Paul prefaced talking about sowing and reaping with the words, 'Do not be deceived" because the Galatians were deceived. They believing that their works for God validated Christ's work for them.
Good news. The gospel boldly announces that everything God required from us in His perfect law, He provided for us in His amazing grace.
Therefore all attempts to add to Christ's work, erase Christ's work.
We can bring the exhausting curse of the law back into our churches by eclipsing redemption with application. Application that eclipses redemption sounds like this ...
Whatever your doing, you should do more. Whatever you're giving, you should give more. However many programs your church is running, you should offer more. However many services you're running, you should run more. You think you're growing? You should grow more. In other words, the message of Christianity becomes: God wants more from you.
That message might not ever be explicitly taught in our pulpits, but where Christ ceases to be central, it's implicitly caught in the pews.
Instead of enjoying Christian disciplines like prayer and scripture meditation as bread that nourishes us in God, sowing to the flesh turns them into barter with which we attempt to leverage God.
Sowing to the flesh looks like the need to have more stuff or the need to do more stuff in order to feel justified in our quest for soul rest.
"Sowing to the Spirit" and reaping eternal life
This statement emphasizes Paul's appeal throughout the entire letter: "enjoy and glorify God from rest in gospel freedom!"
So how do we "sow to the Spirit?"
Contrary to our natural inclinations, we mature by remembering and resting in the gospel. Therein is where the Spirit empowers our life producing the results of the gospel. Paul passionately appeals for the church to trust, rest and celebrate that Christ's grace both covers and empowers them throughout this letter.
Sowing to the Spirit, my dear North American performance junkie, doesn't begin with doing something. It begins with trusting the One who did everything before we did anything. As a recovering performance junkie, I still struggle with this.
Then, like Paul, we realize we didn't do anything to deserve God and we can't do anything to repay God, which leads us into finding rest and pleasure in God. From this gospel rest, the power of the Spirit reforms our hearts to desire to live to the glory of God. More and more over the course of our lives, sowing to the Spirit causes us to die to sin and live to righteousness. This is the Spirit's work.
The Spirit does extraordinary work in our hearts by ordinary means...
God calls us to worship.
God cleanses as we confess our sin.
God communes with us as Christ is preached and at the Lord's table.
God commissions us as those who have received His grace to minister His grace.