[Certain] seeds fell on fertile soil,
and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!
~MATTHEW 13:8 (HCS)
SPRING IS A TIME FOR PLANTING. The farmers and gardeners are busy preparing their fields, gardens and beds. Soil is being turned, seeds have been purchased, equipment has been readied. Now all that remains is waiting for just the right window to get the precious seed into the ground. All of this in anticipation of a crop that is several weeks or some months away.
Spring is a wonderful time of year full of lightened spirits, laughing children playing outside, hopes and aspirations for the sunny summer days to come. Jesus capitalized on the familiarity of this scene on multiple occasions as he taught the people on the Judean hillsides surrounded by pastoral images. His most famous pastoral teaching is known by some as The Parable of the Seeds, by others as The Parable of the Sower, and by still others as The Parable of the Soil.
I suppose a case can be made for all three, as there are certainly things to be learned focusing on each of the three. It is probably best to view this parable holistically, learning key truths by understanding the mystery of the seed, the generosity of the sower and the varied conditions of the soil.
But I want to take just a moment or two of your time to focus on the soil in this brief article. This story is so familiar that I sometimes too glibly skip over the details of Jesus’ teaching as a lesson learned long ago, or contemplating the condition of the soil in the lives of others around me. There is a sense in which this is an important consideration for every Christian, for each of us is to be a sower of the Word, scattering abroad generously the goodness of God upon the hearts and within the lives of others.
What we don’t often think about in this regard is the responsibility of the farmer to adequately prepare his soil in advance of planting in order to secure the most bountiful crop possible, all the while knowing that some fields will produce a greater crop than others. While you and I do not have total control over the receptivity of others to the Gospel of Christ, there are certainly things we can do to improve the receptivity of others to the Gospel. Maybe it would be better said this way: there are certainly obstacles and barriers that can be removed, as often those barriers are the stumbling blocks we place in the way of others fully receiving the seed we attempt to sow.
But what I really want us to consider for a moment is ourselves as the soil. Each one of us can be considered a field in which God’s seed has been sown. Do you remember the different soils?
Footpath – seed snatched away before seed can root or germinate.
Rocky – quick growth, short life, no fruit due to no root.
Thorny – worries, cares, greed and wealth choke out the life.
Fertile – abundant crop according to the fertility of each field.
I find myself forced to take a hard look at my own life right now and ask the hard questions:
- How abundant is the crop that is coming out of my own life?
- Is my life so trampled upon that Satan has snatched God’s good seed away?
- Has my heart grown hard through the trials, hardships and winters of life so that God’s good seed cannot root deeply?
- Does the soil of my heart need to be broken up by the plow of the Holy Spirit, breaking through the hard-pan clay of idle seasons, days or years?
- Have I allowed my heart to be overgrown by worry, vain pursuits, greed or the chasing of material wealth, pleasure and temporary treasures?
- Am I experiencing the wonder and mystery of growth and transformation in my heart, attitude, mind and life?
We have come through a long, hard winter filled with worries, cares, confusion, isolation, hardship, and loss. It would be easy to allow the seed of God’s Word to be choked out. Has the soil of your heart been tilled up by the conviction of God’s Spirit? Is it ready to receive afresh the mysterious and precious seed of God’s Word? Does your soul tingle just a little as you sense that seed taking root and growing both down & in, up & out?
My prayer for you and my prayer for myself is that we will allow the hard and sometimes painful work of tilling to take place in our hearts and then to thrill in the wonder of God’s amazing grace and powerful Word and work in our hearts. May the crop be abundant in you and me in the days, months, seasons and years ahead.
To God alone be the glory.