In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13, verses 1-23, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. A man sows seed and it lands in four different places – on a path; on rocky places without much soil; amongst thorns and finally in good soil. Only the seed that fell in good soil produced a crop. The seed that fell on the path was eaten by birds. The seed in the rocky places sprouted, but was scorched by the sun and withered, because it had shallow roots. The seed which fell amongst thorns was choked by them.
Jesus explains the symbolism of the story. The seed is the word of God – the gospel. The places where it is sown represent the places where the word is sown in humans who hear the gospel- the hearts and minds of men. The seed sown on the path refers to those who hear the word, do not understand and from whom Satan immediately snatches away its effect. The seed that falls on rocky ground represent those who accept the word of God, but fall away when troubles or persecution come because of their faith. The seed that falls amongst thistles represents those who believe the word but are overwhelmed by the worries and cares of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and so become unfruitful. The seed that falls in good soil is the one who hears the word, understands it and produces a crop.
I’m a gardener. I love growing things. A few weeks ago I was at work, eating a mandarin. Inside this mandarin was an unusual seed, in that it was developing into a shoot inside the fruit. It seemed that this seed desperately wanted to grow! I took it home and put it in a pot, and now have a tiny tree developing. Needless to say, I did not throw it down on the clay tiles of my patio, or place it in a crevice in my rock retaining wall, or plant it in a patch of weeds. I made sure there was good potting mix for it to grow in. It has enough sunshine. I water it. I don’t know what the outcome will be, as it is not a grafted tree, but it will be interesting to see if it bears fruit in the future.
We all as Christians have seeds to sow into the lives of others. We don’t know what the results will be of our witnessing to our unsaved family and friends, but what we most wish for is that they will become Christians who are “rooted and established in love.” (Ephesians 3:17). We don’t want our seed to fall on barren ground. We don’t want God’s word to remain for a season until troubles come to our friends and loved ones, and we don’t want to see the temptations or cares of their lives stifle the message.
Any gardener knows that to produce a crop, you have to put some effort in. My vegetable patch did not happen without the efforts of my husband and myself digging up the lawn, fencing the area to keep the dogs out, tilling the soil, planting, weeding, mulching, fertilizing, watering, staking, pruning and finally, harvesting. I’ve had to learn about seasonal timetables and what to plant when. I’ve gained some valuable tips from some of my community health clients who've been gardening for many years.
So it is with our spiritual sowing. We need to build ourselves up in the faith by prayer, Bible study and fellowship with other Christians in a caring church fellowship. We need to recognise that we will be tempted by sin and the cares and pleasures of this life. We might need to weed out some of the distractions.
As Christians we're called upon to give a good account of what we believe for the sake of others. We need to be aware of the factors which may hinder the gospel message in others. Perhaps we can help them to understand the gospel, so that it will not be snatched away. Perhaps we can help them to better cope with the trials and temptations of this world so that those things will be less choking.
I do not take this parable as a license to believe that anyone is beyond being transformed by the word of God. A loving Christian witness praying for their family, friends and others or serving them in many other ways may provide the impetus to clear away the thistles, or transplant the struggling sapling from the rocky ground to the “streams of water”(Psalm 1). Is there any hope for the seed snatched by the birds? Even that seed is not always lost. We gardeners know that sometimes we find a seedling in our garden that has been sown there, through bird droppings. Our Creator God is far greater than the evil one who attempts to steal and destroy God's message.
May we each cultivate good soil to grow God's seeds, and sow seeds of salvation and hope into the lives of others, we pray.
A man had a fig-tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”
“Sir” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”
He [Jesus] told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:2).
I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6)
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:1,2).