When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Lk. 8:4 NASB)
I won’t presume to unpack all that Jesus stuffed into this parable; not even in my lifetime. But I really like that my Master chose to use dirt, probably because I’m still a kid at heart and like to play in the dirt, and also because it adds a fun element. So, let’s get dirty and check it out.
This parable forms the “form” by which we understand all the rest. From what Jesus says to His disciples before He explains it to them, it’s also the easiest to understand. The soil of each type refers to the people receiving the good news of the Kingdom of God. The seed is the good news, and we’re never told who the sower is. I suspect the sower is Jesus, but only initially. After His earthly ministry, I believe we are the sowers and this parable is an encouragement not to quit “sowing” just because the “soil” seems bad.
What Sort of Soil?
But, from some comments Paul makes both to churches and also regarding some of his companions, I also believe the type of soil isn’t easy to determine. Demas, a companion of Paul, turns out to be like the soil with thorns. It’s thought that Demas returns, but timing is unclear. Luke, also a companion of Saul perseveres, a primary quality of the good soil. But perseverance is a quality that shows up late in life. So at first it’s hard to tell.
Some of the things that Paul writes to churches indicates that they are sometimes rocky soil. The Galatians are a good example. But also clear in Paul’s writings is that soil type is not an impossible problem to overcome. That he writes to the Galatians (along with what he writes) indicates that Paul believes the soil can be improved (the “rocks” removed). I think that it’s a good thing to remember that rocks and weeds can be removed, improving the condition of soil.
The Benefit of Good Soil
Probably the most pronounced element of encouragement for the “evangelists” to come is that good soil produces 100 times more than sown. In other words it more than makes up for the other three soils. I believe this would inspire those “sowing” the gospel to continue in the face of poor reception (the path), poor understanding (rocks), and the distracted uncommitted (thorns). There will be good soil which produces enough to make up for the path, rocks, and thorn people.
Tending My “Garden”, Sowing More Seed
So, then the question for me is what sort am I? Honestly, I’m trying to get rid of thorns right now. I’m way too easily distracted, and not sowing nearly enough of the good news of the Kingdom of God. Good idea, removing the thorns, but I need to balance the “weeding” with more “sowing”.
How about you? What’s your view through the knothole? What sort of soil are you?