The first parable Jesus tells is about a farmer who is either new to the agriculture industry or is not too bright. Having grown up on a farm and now being surrounded by smart, industrious farmers in northwest Iowa, I know farmers plant their seeds in fields. In Jesus’ story, the farmer scatters his seed “along the path,” “on rocky places,” “among thorns,” and “on good soil.” Jesus does not say that a little fell in unsuitable places while (thankfully) most ended up in a field with good soil. Just strictly based on what Jesus says, there seems to be a fairly even distributing of the seeds all over. Either the fellow is new to farming or he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
Or maybe Jesus is drawing our attention to something else.
The different places in which the seed is sown represents the variety of places and people that receive God’s Word. The conclusion of Jesus’ story highlights how the Word takes root and grows best in good soil. And so I sincerely sing and pray with Handt Hanson, “Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your Word.” But (thankfully) the good soil is not the only place God sows the seed. If that were the case, I’d be in a lot of trouble. Sometimes my life is more like the hardened path or the shallow rocky patches or the busy thorny places. But God still risks coming along and giving me his Word. That is, God doesn’t wait for me to be good before he’ll show up and speak to me. He is willing to risk investing in me even when I don’t look like a promising investment.
Is this an excuse not to cultivate the soil of my life? No. It grounds my desire to cultivate the soil of my life in the light of God’s grace, knowing that he loved me before I was of any value or worth to him. I don’t desire for my life to be like good soil so that God will show up; I desire for my life to be like good soil because God has already shown up and risked everything – the life of his own Son, in fact – on me.
So when I celebrate a good crop in my life (such as seeing evidence of the fruit of the Spirit or developing the talents God has given me or nurturing a relationship with someone), it’s a celebration of God’s grace from start to finish. That’s why instead of trying to figure it out on my own, I pray God makes my heart like the good soil in Jesus’ story.
Hi Stan. I couldn’t resist commenting. For me, this story highlights the incredible “offense” of the gospel that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day just couldn’t abide (and John the Baptizer couldn’t understand), namely, that the Messiah came as a sower rather than a reaper, and that he willingly and intentionally (not stupidly or ignorantly) – in the words of Barbara Brown Taylor – ““flings seed everywhere” (even, as I preached it, on the prostitute at Simon’s house and the women who scandalized their culture by leaving their homes to accompany him), “wastes it with holy abandon…feeds the birds, whistles at the rocks, picks his way through the thorns, shouts hallelujah at the good soil and just keeps on sowing, confident that there is enough seed to go around, that there is plenty, and that when the harvest comes at last it will fill every barn in the neighbourhood to the rafters.”
I think most people badly misunderstand this parable, and I’m glad you weren’t one of them…must be my good influence! 🙂
Hope all is well with you and your family.
Bert (currently interim pastor at East Hill Community, Vernon)
Hi Bert! Good to hear from you! Thanks for your comment. I’m glad your good influence on me continues to pay off all these years later! =) And that is a great quote from Barbara Brown Taylor! ~S