Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about seeds. A few months ago I began to purchase seeds of all kinds: supersweet corn, pumpkins, broccoli, beans, zucchini, and various herbs. I weeded a small section of the garden and planted my onions early. After weeding the rest of the garden and having a friend rototill, I laid out my garden plan and planted the seeds. I also purchased tomato and pepper plants, and planted those as well.
We’ve had a few chilly nights and some scorching days, but the plants are okay and the seeds are sprouting. Of course, weeds are growing nicely right along with my seedlings. If I hadn’t left the twine tied to the row markers, I might not know exactly where my good plants were among the weeds. Thus the work of another summer begins.
Perhaps intentionally timed perfectly with the season, a recent devotional I read included the parable of the sower. Having just planted my garden, I took a special interest in the passage in Matthew 13.
If you’ve never read the parable, or just need a refresher, grab your Bible and check it out. This parable starts in verse 3. Back then, fields were a little smaller and easier to maintain than the farm fields today, and the farmer had to sow by hand. This farmer went along casting seeds from a little pouch. We read that as he tossed the seed, some fell on the path where the birds were able to eat them up. Some fell into rocky soil; although they grew, they weren’t rooted deeply enough to withstand the elements, and they died. Some seed landed in thorny weeds which choked out the seedlings. Still, some fell onto good ground, became well-rooted, and produced a good crop.
I love the next part: the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do you speak in parables?” My guess is that some of them might have been frustrated that Jesus just didn’t come right out and proclaim himself the Messiah. Others might have wondered what the connection was between these seemingly meaningless stories and the eternal. So why did he use parables? He tells us in verses 11-13: Not everyone is ready to hear the truth plainly spoken! Some need to have their hearts readied with a good story before the insights and understanding which was freely given to the disciples can come to them. Telling stories creates questions, opens the mind and the heart, and nudges the people closer to understanding.
But the best part of this parable is the fact that Jesus takes the time to explain it! There is no room for interpretation, no miscommunication. Jesus tells us the heart of each person is the soil and the seed is His message (v 18-23). I can honestly say that I’ve been all four types of soil. So what do we learn about each one?
The seed on the path is a person who hears the message but doesn’t take it in. They want nothing to do with it. They may feign momentary interest, but they aren’t about to allow it to root. The seed, not rooting, gets plucked away by Satan. It’s gone. Nothing to see here, move along.
The seed in the rocky soil is a person who responds to the message with immediate enthusiasm. Their emotions take over. But they lack the depth of character necessary to allow the seedling to firmly root. At the first hint of trouble they cry out in anger at God. “I trusted You! How could you let this happen to me?” Their faith withers and dries up.
The seed in the weeds and thorns is a person who constantly worries. The good soil is there, the desire to trust God is honest, but they lack the spiritual maturity to work the garden or allow God to weed it for them. They won’t trust God with their families, jobs, or income. They think they’re being faithful, but don’t admit the weeds are choking their faith to death.
The seed that falls on good soil is the person who hears the message and allows it to radically change their life, resulting in a harvest beyond their wildest imagination, a harvest that will be pleasing to the sower.
During high school and early college, my heart was the path and the rocky soil. If anything grew there, it wasn’t allowed to live for very long. A good twenty years of my life were spent trying to get something to grow among the weeds and thorns, yet the stresses of daily life, my job, planning for the future–all of those worries kept blocking the sunlight, cutting at the tender flesh of my faith.
A few years ago, something changed within. My heart was pierced by some really amazing Christian books, and I was convicted to spend more time in prayer and Bible study. I still don’t do either as much as I want to, but the increase has led to God weeding my soul. His light has warmed the soil; His Spirit blows freely. When I pray, I don’t do all of the talking; I now spend time listening. I spend more time praising, thanking, worshipping.
So while my garden grows, I’ll be out there weeding, watering, feeding. The parable of the sower will be on my mind and I thank God for preparing the soil of my heart, for not deserting me when I paid more attention to my worries than to His faithfulness, and for bringing me to a point in life where I see the abundance growing from the attentions of the Master Gardener.