This past Sunday in church, my husband preached perhaps the most-familiar parable of Jesus–the Sower and the Seed. Although I have read that parable and taught it myself many times, I looked at it differently on Sunday. The lesson challenged and convicted me, not merely to have a fertile heart, as I should, but also to consider how my heart also resembles the other 3 soils.
With a Sue-version re-cap of Shane’s message, I’ve jotted down a few groundbreaking ideas for becoming fertile soil in a rocky environment. Here’s the question of the day:
What difference does the condition of my heart and soul really make in my life and in my world?
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.” Mtt. 13:3-9 (the parable); (Matt. 18-23 is the explanation of the parable.)
MAYBE THE SOWER KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING
God is the Sower, the farmer extraordinaire, the personality who never tires or becomes discouraged about how the seed or soil function. While the picture of a farmer scattering seed may appear random, the Sower–representing our faithful and persistent Heavenly Father–is quite intentional. He scatters the seed that contains the absolute truth needed to grow healthy plants. Although the Farmer knows the challenges of the environment, he distributes the seed evenly, giving each seed equal opportunity to grow. Nothing is impossible with God, so He does not consider the process of sowing to be wasteful management of the seed, even though He realizes most of it will not germinate or grow into healthy, productive plants. With full knowledge that 3/4 of his seed will fall on unhealthy soil, He sows anyway. He sows because He knows the potential of each seed if it should happen to fall into a crack of black dirt and receive nourishment in a timely manner. Valuing potential over convenience, God Almighty looks toward a productive harvest, in spite of disheartening statistics.
TRUTH WANTS TO GROW INTO SOMETHING BIG
Engineered to produce growth, the seed’s soul hides beneath a hard, protective shell. Thrown out into the world, it lands haphazardly on ground not necessarily suited for success. If it’s lucky, it sinks below the surface, awaiting assistance from sun and rain so it can break free and stretch toward the light. The seed longs for growth, for bloom, for reproduction. Wind will whisper or wail against its shaft, but with strong enough roots, it will merely bend under the pressure before springing back. The reward of standing strong will cause each plant’s seeds to be scattered to the regions beyond, its fruit to be harvested, and its purpose to be fulfilled. One single seed can make a difference in countless lives if only it has the right beginning.
MY HEART DETERMINES MY SPIRITUAL SUCCESS
The Hard Soil
Stomped into a path for traveling, the hard soil is the least receptive to the seed. A path has a planned destination. It carries people with agendas and schedules, people who know what they want and how they want to get there. This soil, hardened by experience and perception, has little room for receptivity. Because of its tough surface, a path attracts scavengers. Birds, which Jesus calls “the evil one,” will “snatch” the seed and carry it away. The word “snatch” means to steal; the idea is a quick and deceptive maneuver that will go unnoticed until it’s too late. Hard soil does not anticipate seed, so it can’t receive it when the farmer sows. If we allow ourselves to be closed to correction and instruction, like a hardened path, we will miss the opportunity for change. And we will likely realize (probably at the end of the road), that we have lacked the wisdom to make godly choices because we lacked understanding of God’s truth.
The Rocky Soil
While soil does exist in a rocky landscape, only sparse vegetation, like moss and wildflowers, are able to survive for the season. The rocks–representing life’s trials and strongholds–prevent complex root systems from developing. Due to either a difficult environment or the merciless beating of daily sun, seed cast into the rocky soil will likely wilt and die. How many times have I responded to truth by resolving to obey or change, only to find myself entrenched among the same boulders? If I want to survive life’s challenges, I’ll need a better spiritual foundation than surface soil.
The Thorny Soil
Thorns–the cares of this world–might be bigger threats to our spiritual growth than giant rocks or pesky birds. So serious is Jesus to explain this concept, that He gives 2 specific examples to illustrate his point: anxiety and money. In his explanation of the parable, Jesus describes the thorny soil like this:
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Mtt. 13:22
Do any other thoughts consume more of my time and energy than worry and the quest to get ahead financially? Jesus’ choice words remind me what it costs to buy into the world’s value system. The definition of “choke” means “to hinder or obstruct the breathing of” or “to retard the growth of or kill (a plant) by depriving it of light, air, or nourishment.”* This world’s pressure to be more and have more literally puts a choke hold around my throat. No wonder we feel like we’re gasping for air! We’re being strangled!
Every time my focus shifts to worrying about this life, I lose God’s perspective. In Mtt. 6:32-34, Jesus instructed his disciples to stop worrying about everyday needs and focus on God’s kingdom.
If anxiety is a detour, deceitfulness of money represents all-out warfare against our values because wealth presents a logical solution to most of our worries. A little more income takes care of bills, maintenance costs, tuition, and recreation needs. Wealth negates anxiety about retirement and sickness. It inevitably steers us toward 2 possible idolatrous destinations–greed and self-sufficiency. Both trump the need for faith, because in our world’s system, money seems to solve everything. And therein lies the deception. Paul warns a young, aspiring pastor about the deceptiveness of wealth in 1 Tim. 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Pierced themselves–isn’t that what a thorn does?
The Good Soil
Jesus admonished his audience, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Mtt. 13:9) The hearers have hearts of fertile soil, rich and full of nutrients because they have been fertilizing their minds and souls. The farmer has already tilled the ground, turning it over, giving it air. Vulnerable and humble, the good soil has David’s perspective in Ps. 139:23-24:
“Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
When the Word is preached, the good soil listens and obeys (Jms. 2:22-25). Looking at my sin is embarrassing and humiliating, but if I want God’s blessing and direction, I’ll look in the mirror and recognize the problem. Soil doesn’t discriminate against the seed, choosing one seed over another; neither can a follower of Christ accept one truth of Scripture and discard another because it’s too convicting or offensive to his pre-determined beliefs. I am either good soil, who welcomes all the seed I can hold, or else I’m a different kind of soil, who will produce a different kind of harvest (if any). But what a harvest if I’m willing! Jesus promised,
“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.” (Mtt. 13:23)
A hundred times! No wonder the Sower goes out and sows.
I want to be the plant that reproduces thirty or sixty or a hundred times more. I want to be tilled. I want to be planted. I want to be watered. I want to grow strong in a rocky world.
*New Oxford American Dictionary