Here many of us are in the dead of winter, gazing at barren tree limbs, dormant flower beds and maybe even a coating of snow on the ground. Because of this, most of us probably aren’t giving a lot of thought to things like planting flowers or vegetable gardens. But one doesn’t need a green thumb to be actively engaged in the process of sowing and reaping year-round.
Recently I was reminded of this while reading a familiar quote tagged at the end of a friend’s email. It read:
Sow a thought, and you reap an act.
Sow an act, and you reap a habit.
Sow a habit, and you reap a character.
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
This isn’t talking about little seeds and different forms of vegetation; it concerns something much more important.

It’s about the little things we do each day which don’t seem to matter, but if cultivated, repeated and nurtured over time, make a dramatic difference in the course of one’s life.
One example many of us can easily relate to is snacking at night. My wife and I will be watching TV, only an hour or so after eating a hearty dinner, and I’m thinking, ‘What can I eat?’ It’s often because I’m seeing folks on the TV screen eating something, or I’ve just viewed a commercial about potato chips or some fast-food restaurant. My stomach is still full, but suddenly, I’m “hungry.”
If this were just a one-time or occasional occurrence, it wouldn’t be a problem. But it happens night after night, same scenario. I had the thought initially, then I acted on it. When I acted on it again, it started to turn into a habit. If the habit becomes a dominating part of life, it affects my character. Then, potentially, it can affect my destiny.
We could apply this behavioral progression to many things, ranging from spending practices to alcoholism to viewing salacious content on the computer. Name the controlling behavior and you can bet it started as a simple thought, advanced into an act, turned into a habit, slowly shaped a character and then, perhaps, transformed into a destiny. From a negative perspective, that’s how addictions are created.
“You reap what you sow,” it’s said. But in truth, we reap much more than we sow. Whoever planted a kernel of corn with the intention of reaping just one more kernel of corn? Or placed a tomato plant in a garden with hopes of it producing a single tomato?
The key, it seems, is not to steer clear of the sowing and reaping principle, but to be cautious about what it is we’re sowing. This is one reason Proverbs 4:23 warns us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” What are your affections? What are those things that dominate your thoughts and attention?
In Proverbs we find several passages that deal with sexual temptation, with good reason. While they’re directed toward younger men, these warnings apply equally to men and women. After observing that, “The lips of an adulteress drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword,” the writer sternly warns, “Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house…. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent” (Proverbs 5:3-11). A grim image, for sure.
The Ten Commandments are viewed by some as a series of do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations handed down by a spoilsport deity. But in reality, they’re guidelines for successful, joyous living. They prescribe for us where we should direct our hearts – and where we shouldn’t. If we ever wonder, “How should I guard my heart?” the commandments provide answers.
As recorded in Exodus 20:1-17, commandments 1-4 address our relationship with God, making Him the foremost priority of our lives: Have no gods other than the one true God. Don’t worship idols. Don’t misuse or profane God’s name. Designate a day for rest and renewal, just as He rested after His six days of creation.
The remaining commandments concern our relationships with others, including our parents, neighbors and strangers. The sixth commandment instructs “Do not murder,” a teaching Jesus later clarified in His “sermon on the mount” to include harboring angry, destructive thoughts toward others. “You have heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘Do not murder,’ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…” (Matthew 5:21-26).
Commandments 7-10 address adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting the possessions of another. In each case, these are actions that most likely don’t arise from random impulses, but have followed the pattern of sowing first a thought, then an act, then a habit, which shaped a character, and perhaps led to the formation of a destiny.
So, while gazing from the warmth of our homes at a cold, bleak outdoors, it would be wise to remember that we’re still cultivating, sowing and reaping. Are we guarding our hearts by following Jesus’ admonition to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… [and] love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31), or are we sowing negative actions and habits that will result in regretful consequences?
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is His email address is
January 20, 2022
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