I grew up on a small farm in central Indiana. My Dad worked in the factory and we farmed as a sideline means to feed a few pigs and cows. And sometimes for a cash crop.
Farming sure has changed since the 1950s and ’60s. We used a 2-row corn planter. Today corn planters can range in size from 6 rows to 48 rows. But imagine how farming has changed since Bible times?
In our passage today is another one of Jesus’ agricultural parables. It is often called ”The Parable of the Sower.” But it could be also be called “The Parable of the Soils.” Some commentators have called it “the parable of parables.” In one sense, it’s like four parables. in one. It is one of the few parables that Jesus explains the meaning.
To refresh your memory, take a moment to read the text.
The parable highlights three paramount points. (1) The importance of hearing. The word “hear” is used at least 7 times in this text. Not just superficial hearing. But really listening. Apprehending. And absorbing. (2) “The seed is the Word of God.” God’s Word must be sown. And like seed, there is life to reproduce. To procreate. To multiply. And bear fruit. (3) The success of sowing, is not so much the sower, and definitely not the seed. But it is the soil, which is the heart of the hearer. This parable is all about hearts.
So, this raises 4 very important, personal, and relevant questions for each of us.
#1 Do you have a hard heart?
Seed that falls on the wayside soil that is hardened and packed down will not produce anything. Like the birds of the air, the devil quickly comes and snatches away any chance of the seed germinating.
Honestly, the hard heart is difficult to understand. But some people either through preconceived ideas, personal prejudices, or hurtful experiences have a heart that is impenetrable. They are antagonistic or apathetic to the gospel message. Satan has removed any chance of the seed penetrating their heart.
#2 Do you have a shallow heart?
This is represented by the seed falling on rocky ground. Like a plant that may bring up through the thin soil on the ground covered by limestone that soon withers because it cannot take root, so is the one who doesn’t grow spiritually and become “rooted and grounded in the faith.”
We’ve all seen people excitedly obey the gospel. They are joyful. Maybe tearful. They seem genuinely converted. Then suddenly they disappear. What happened? Their short-lived commitment could have been due to temptations, trials, or persecution from others.
#3 Do you have a crowded heart?
This heart has enough soil to take root and grow. Yet, like the weeds in a field that overtake the plant, the Word is strangled and snuffed out. Why? Jesus offers three problems that are still issues today.
Cares. Excessive and inordinate anxiety or worry deprives the heart of the spiritual nourishment it needs. In His Mount Message, Jesus plainly says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.” In it He says “God will take care of you.”
Riches. Wealth can be a wonderful servant, but it’s a terrible master. We either control our money or it controls us. How many have fallen away in the pursuit of material success? Wealth is not wrong. But when we trust in it and make it the center of our lives, then it will crowd out the Word.
Pleasures. Not all pleasure is sinful. There are diversions in life that bring us enjoyment, relaxation, and satisfaction. However, an unhealthy obsession with pleasure can replace Bible study, prayer, worship, fellowship, and discipleship growth.
#4 Do you have a good and honest heart?
The soil of this heart is fruitful. It receives the Word. Assimilates it. Applies it. And allows it to reproduce. Of course, not all soil produces the same amount of bushels per acre. Even among the good ground, some soil is richer and yields a greater crop.
The fruit of this soil may be seen in a godly life. In ministry. In evangelistic outreach. In discipleship growth. In warm fellowship. In character development. In charitable giving. And in heartfelt worship.
For evangelistic purposes, it’s helpful to understand that not everyone responds the same way to the gospel. Not everyone accepted Jesus. Not everyone obeyed the apostles’ preaching. And not everyone will favorably respond today. Satan is always at work hardening hearts. Injecting obstacles. Introducing objections.. Tempting with diversions. And testing with trials.
For each of us who desire to remain faithful, we must continually cultivate the soil of our hearts. Water it. Fertilize it. And hoe out the weeds.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman