Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.
Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.
And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9
Opening Points to Ponder:
Being honest with yourself, in which area of your Christian walk would you say you have been most successful?
Reverse it now and think about areas that you have most struggled with and where you have fallen short of success most often.
Having the right ears
This parable is a little bit easier to understand than some because Jesus interprets it for his disciples (and us) so there is no confusion. It’s interesting that even before he tells them the meaning he compliments their understanding while lamenting the dullness of the hearers of the large crowds he was addressing. “’But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.’” (Matthew 13:16)
That tells us that true understanding rises out of the condition of our heart rather than our strict knowledge. Should he have announced to everyone the meaning of each element of the parable they would still not have understood. Try pouring water on a slab of concrete and notice that is either runs off or just sits there. However if you pour water on the ground it will soak in because it is capable of absorbing, whether fast or slow.
So as we listen to our Lord tell us what each element represents, we only have blessed eyes and ears when we absorb what he is saying to us. Our own spiritual condition is revealed. Once known we can choose to take action or let it roll off us like the slab of concrete. Let’s review Jesus’ interpretation.
The Lord compares the kingdom of God to seed and tells how it happens that people react so differently to it and why there is uneven yield from the same seed. Basically he offers four choices for results.
- Seed by the side of the road. This is the one who does not understand because “the evil one comes, and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.”
- Seed sown on rocky places. “This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.”
- Seed sown among thorns. This seed is choked off because of “the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth.” Ultimately this seed planted is unfruitful.
- Seed sown on good soil. This is the man who “hears the word and understands it.” For this one there will be a yield of fruit in varying degrees from thirty to a hundred-fold. (Note: Wow! Even a thirty percent return on a Stock Market investment would be a very happy return to most any of us so God’s kingdom is obviously a GREAT investment.)
Okay, let’s review. There are certain things that will prevent the expansion of the kingdom of God in a person’s life: lack of understanding, not having firm root, worry and the deceitfulness of wealth. Only the person with “good soil” will produce.
We often think of this parable as applying it to those who are not yet IN the kingdom but I think that’s shortsighted. We can also apply it to those who have accepted the basics of the gospel. We can apply it to ourselves. How far will the gospel go in us to produce valuable change?
Reexamining our success and failure
With that we can look once more at the questions asked in the beginning—how have you been most successful and least successful in your Christian walk? Could some of those successes and failures have to do with the soil in your life and where the seeds of the kingdom have fallen? Do you have rocky places or thorny places or by the side of the road places in your life?
It might be easy to think that a “by the side of the road place” isn’t really your own fault because this is the case where the “the evil one comes, and snatches away what has been sown.” If someone comes along and steals from you, aren’t you just an innocent victim? Not entirely. There are ways we can protect ourselves from theft. In the natural we can lock our doors and create an environment where stealing is less likely. We can do that in the spiritual realm too.
God’s Word says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Our protection is to “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.” Obeying that insures God’s seed will not fall by the side of our road where is CAN be snatched away.
This is the wise way to look at all the other types of soil in your life too. Are you firmly rooted? How much worry is in your life? Have riches and “things” deceived you? To what degree? That degree will probably match your success and failure rate in the Christian walk. Being able to connect the dots from failure to a root cause is like understanding finally falling on good soil. Now it can sink in and therefore grow something good that will produce up to a hundred-fold return.
Bad soil can be reworked and turned into good soil. Rocks can be removed. Thorns can be uprooted and discarded. Shallow soil can be pulled in from the edges so it is not too thin for seeds to grow to maturity. The kingdom of God is meant to penetrate deeply in each of us. Then our abundance can overflow to other fields and take root in others’ lives and the kingdom will spread profusely. He who has ears, let him hear!
Closing Challenge Points
Pick an area in your own life where you have always struggled and try to apply a soil type to it. Realize there may be hard work ahead. Now, if you are willing, ask the Holy Spirit to help you turn your failures into good soil that will bear good fruit instead.