I know a man who has sown a lifetime of selfishness in various (often subtle) ways. He is now in a position where circumstances no longer permit him to sow in selfishness, and the harvest he is reaping is one of becoming increasingly frustrated and bitter at his environment and the people whom he perceives to be getting in his way.
One would like to think that he will gradually adapt to his new reality, but I'm not so sure. What if he's so conditioned his heart to finding satisfaction in his selfish little modes that he simply can't find satisfaction elsewhere (even if it's in things that matter more)? Enter the downward spiral into increasing bitterness and anger. (Apart from an intervention by Grace, of course.)
Despite the incredible discomfort that creates for the people around him, I am often tempted to say that he is getting what he deserves. He is reaping what he has sown.
I heard a preacher on the radio years ago speaking on a similar subject. He was talking about the story of the paralyzed man whose friends carried him to Jesus for healing. The world around us has a saying that could apply to this man: "You made your bed, now lie in it." Isn't this just another way of saying that you are reaping what you have sown?
But Jesus didn't say this to the man, and I have had this unknown preacherman's words swirling in my head for years: "Jesus didn't say to the man, 'You made your bed, now lie in it.' Instead, Jesus said, 'Take up your mat and walk.'"
There is certainly biblical wisdom and truth in recognizing that we reap what we sow. But the good news is that grace wins over justice. On the cross, Jesus reaped what I've sown. In exchange, I get to enjoy an incredibly rich, bountiful harvest that I didn't sow.
"When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Deuteronomy 6:10-12