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Reap What You Sow (Meaning, Origin, Examples)

What does “reap what you sow” mean? When we communicate in any language, we sometimes use idioms to make a point. It is the same with the English language. While talking or writing in English, we use phrases to explain what we mean. And sometimes we use idioms to emphasize what we want to express.

But what is an idiom? An idiom is a figurative phrase. This means when you read an idiom, what the words or phrase means is different from what it looks like.

It is a mode of expression where you cannot take the literal meaning of the words (forming the idiom) to be its actual meaning.

Idioms are artistic modes of expression. One common idiom which you should know is ‘reap what you sow.’


What does reap what you sow mean?

While watching television or reading books, you might hear the phrase ‘reap what you sow.’ You can also come across ‘Reap what one sows.’ Both are the same and carry the same symbolic meaning.

Is it “reap what you sow” or “you reap what you sow?”

Similarly, the definition of ‘reap what you sow’ or ‘you reap what you sow’ is that you will face the consequences of your actions. What you are going through now is a result of a thing you have done in the past. And what you do now will bring you the expected results in the future.

For example, look at the sentence, ‘If you do not study for your test, you will reap as you sow.’ This means that your result will be per your preparedness. If you are not ready for a test, you will not fare well. But the bad result will be a consequence of your action because you knowingly did not prepare or study for it.

Simplifying the idiom

So to put it simply, the meaning of ‘reap what you sow’ is if you do something good, something good will happen to you. And if you do something wrong, something terrible will happen to you. You will be responsible for your choices in life and what you do.


“Reap what you sow” origin

Reaping and sowing are general terms related to planting seeds and harvesting. ‘Reaping’ means gathering crops, and ‘sowing’ means planting seeds.

The phrase or idiom ‘Reap what you sow’ originated from the Bible, where it has been used repeatedly as a metaphor

In the book of Hosea (in 1611 King James Version), which is the Hebrew Bible, after God sees the Israelites worshiping a calf idol, he says, “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.”

The idiom ‘Reap what you sow’ has derived from this utterance—this utterance or saying means that the consequences of wrong actions will be worse. 

In addition to being in the Bible, it was also found in an ancient English sermon, probably belonging to the 1650s. It said people who can enter God’s kingdom could do so because of their kindness. They are reaping the result of what they sowed.

Slowly, the use of this proverb started becoming widespread, especially in the sector of business and politics. In 1822, the phrase also appeared as a metaphor in the British Parliament. The idiom was used to refer to how the policies formed by the colonial British would have later consequences.

Bible relationship to “reap what you sow”

Let’s see what the Bible says about this expression or the Biblical meaning of the phrase.

There have been multiple references to this phrase in the scripture. The most significant one is from a passage in Galatians (6:7-8).

In the Christian New Testament Epistle, Paul the Apostle wrote to the Galatians that “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

These lines from the Book of Galatians tell that you should not be misled into thinking that you can make a mockery of God’s justice. 

What you harvest is what you plant. Anyone who is surviving only to meet the needs of their sinful nature will harvest decay and death as a result of their nature.


Is “reap what you sow” a negative idiom?

Though it may seem like “reap what you sow” has a negative connotation, that is not entirely true. It can be used in a positive context too.

Reaping the benefits is like Karma.

And someone can have good Karma too.

One will reap benefits from a good deed and will suffer for a bad deed. Thus the idiom has both positive and negative connotations.

Examples of “reap what you sow” in a sentence

Here are some examples, including quotes, to help you understand how to use this idiom in a sentence.

You will also see how it can be used both positively and negatively:

  • Last month, Ms. Donovan described the people involved in her son’s death as a “pack of monsters” and expressed a wish that they would “reap what they sow.”
  • If you want to be successful in life, remember that you reap what you sow. The harder you work, the more likely you will achieve your goals.
  • We will reap what we sow. When you do good for other people, that’s when God is going to make sure that his abundant blessings overtake you.
  • Of course, you’re exhausted in class—you stay up too late! You reap what you sow.
  • Life is like a garden; you reap what you sow.
  • Their generosity now could be rewarded in the future – you reap what you sow.

Common questions

Questions about “reap what you sow.”

What is the biblical meaning of “reap what you sow?”

While there are many references, “for he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption.” Galatians 6:7-8. And “Sow to the Spirit and instead reap eternal life.” Romans 8:6. Lastly, “whoever sows generously will also reap sparingly.”

It is still of each of us to determine the exact religious meaning of the idiom. A reference could be to one’s actions and one’s own sinful nature needing to be replaced with the Holy Spirit. For example, spreading God’s word (to plant seeds) rather than spreading negative actions.

Does it mean to watch our actions?

In short, yes. In proverbs 22:8, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity.” It refers to the consequences of a person’s actions. Rather, ensuring that our actions are “good” in other to prevent future consequences that are negative.


  1. Definition of ‘you reap what you sow’ – Collins Dictionary
  2. You Reap What You Sow – Meaning and Origin – Grammarist
  3. You Reap What You Sow Meaning & Origin – Dictionary.com
  4. You reap what you sow meaning – Idioms – UsingEnglish.com
  5. The Biblical Meaning of “You Reap What You Sow” – Christianity

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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