"But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown."
On the south end of our Concord Road property, we have a nice plot of land dedicated to individual gardens. Several of our members have laid claim to their own parcel to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, and a variety of produce. Much of this is given away and donated.
Occasionally, they’ll invite the church staff to come and sample the fruit of their labor. I must say I get a little jealous that they’ve been able to produce such delicacies by the work of their hands. Maybe I wouldn’t like the time and effort it takes to plant and cultivate on the front end, but I think I might even enjoy it if I knew what I was doing and believed there was a decent chance of harvest.
I know absolutely nothing about gardening. Well, almost nothing.
Life experience and even this parable in Matthew 13:3-23 (and parallel passages in Mark 4:3-25 and Luke 8:5-18) has taught me a few things that may be covered in chapter one of Gardening for Dummies.
First of all, I know it usually takes some sort of soil for a seed to take root and germinate. I know better than to scatter seed on top of a concrete slab and expect anything to grow. I also know that having a bunch of rocks or weeds in the dirt aren’t accelerators of growth, and usually serve as inhibitors for long-term success.
The parable before us is often referred to as the “Parable of the Sower.” The good thing about this title is that it puts the emphasis on God (the sower) and the “word about the kingdom” (the seed). Without a God who pursues us and offers us Good News, we’re all lost.
I prefer, however, to think of this as the “Parable of the Soils.” After all, the distinguishing characteristic in the four scenarios relates to the type of soil and its receptivity and quality to receive the seed.
It’s sobering to discover that only one in four of the soils achieves the intended purpose. This .250 percentage isn’t even very good for a baseball player’s batting average.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction. Therefore, we’re charged to “enter through the narrow gate.”
How do we do this? How do we become the minority—the one-fourth that gets it right? If our hearts (our essence, our inner person) are the soil to accept God’s work in our lives, what must we do to allow this to flourish in us?
First, we must guard against a hardened heart that never allows the seed to take root. Have you softened your heart? Have you plowed the inner soil so you’re receptive to hearing from God and obeying Him? Have you responded to God’s call on your life to surrender to Him and place your trust in His Son, Jesus Christ?
Secondly, Jesus talks about the rocky ground that’s short-lived because it represents a soil that’s shallow and doesn’t allow the seed to take root appropriately. The “rocky” heart receives the word with joy and follows as long as it’s not costly.
But once persecution and pressure come, this person stumbles and falls away. Are you willing to suffer for Jesus? What if it costs you a promotion at work? What if means being different and not blending in with your peers? What if it means the daily suffering of dying to your self-centered interests and desires?
Thirdly, we must beware of the “thorns” that crowd out and choke God’s work in our lives. These are represented by the “worries of this age and the seduction of wealth.” If we’re not challenged, and even a little offended by this, we may not be taking a serious examination of ourselves.
My idols of pursuing financial security and valuing the praise of men over the approval of God are choking out what the Lord wants to do in me. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Finally, there’s a type of soil that produces good fruit, even a bountiful supply. The results we can leave to God, but our part is to cultivate the soil/soul so that God’s Spirit can progressively transform us into the image of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).
How do we do this? Though good, effective gardening is hard work, the cultivation of our soul requires even greater effort. God’s work in me germinates and takes root through the thousand daily deaths of surrender and rendering every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:5).
His power is evidenced in me as I recognize that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead indwells me (Romans 8:11) and is able to do abundantly more through me than I could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
The Sower is casting His seed today. What type of heart do you have to receive it?
- The Scriptures implore us to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Has a hardened heart, a basic superficiality of faith, or a vested interest and concern about the things of this world kept you from truly embracing Christ for salvation?
- If you’re a follower of Jesus, are there areas of repentance needed to turn from callousness toward the things of God, an unwillingness to suffer for Christ, or a preoccupation with worldly values?
- How can you cultivate your soul to embrace God’s love and work in you and allow His Spirit to work through you today? What “rocks” and “thorns” need to be removed? What “fertilizer” needs to be added and mixed in?