Jesus taught the ‘Parable of the Sower’ as explained in Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-8, and Luke 8:4-15, which is the first parable told in each of the Synoptic gospels. It is interesting to note that after Jesus shared this story with the crowd, he offered additional explanation to His disciples (Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:13-20), who frequently required clarification when hearing Jesus’ metaphors and allegory. This fact, in itself, offers tremendous comfort to me, as it reminds us that the disciples were ordinary people who had the same challenges that we do today. This can and should inspire us to live according to God’s great purpose for our lives!
The ‘Parable of the Sower’ illustrates: “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 because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plant. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:3-8)
The four parts of the parable are described to the disciples in terms of how people use God’s Word in their lives (Matthew 13:19-23):
1) The seed sown along the path is analogous to Satan snatching up the Word from the nonbeliever before it has the opportunity to take root in their heart.
2) The seed sown in the rocky places relates to the spiritually immature believer who is initially excited by God’s Word, but when trouble comes into their life, they quickly return to the ways of the flesh.
3) The seed sown among the thorns describes a believer who becomes caught up in the worries and concerns of life and wealth, and does not focus all of their efforts on God. In this case, the soil can produce life; it is just being used for ungodly pursuits.
4) The final seed, which is sown in the productive soil, shows how spiritually mature believers accept God’s word – they take it into their heart, understand it, their faith grows, and the results are fruitful for God’s kingdom.
If you consider how soil forms and becomes fertile for the growth of vegetation (and you likely haven’t), you will see that the process correlates to the ‘Parable of the Sower’. Soil is not formed overnight; it takes years for a good, productive soil to develop. It forms from the top surface downward by the weathering of rock and requires nutrients that come from plant, animals, water and air. Its texture results from the amount of sand, clay, and silt that are present in the soil. A soil that contains only sand, clay, or silt could not support life, and thus the most fertile soil for plant growth contains a mixture of these three textures.
More than you wanted to know about soil, I’m sure, but here’s how it all works together – and isn’t God awesome for how everything interrelates? The soil depicted in Jesus’ parable is our heart, and its quality is related to our receptiveness of allowing God’s Word to govern our daily life. We first must protect ourselves by wearing our spiritual armor on our exterior; then, we can start developing inwardly. The rocky parts of our heart must be weathered by the trials and difficulties that take place in our lives. We require nutrients, such as fellowship, encouragement, Godly counsel, and scriptural teaching in order for our hearts to soften and develop. We must remain balanced in our faith, just as a fertile soil is balanced in texture, focusing on studying the word, helping or encouraging others, and praising God in everything we do. The time it takes for our hearts to develop is related to our level of spiritual maturity. This is a dynamic process – we do not have to remain stagnant in our current condition! Our hearts can be cultivated, as our relationship with God is nurtured. As we actively seek God’s guidance in our lives, our hearts will hold God’s Word for protection, we will grow as Christians, and produce the Fruit of the Spirit.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)