Matthew chapter 13 is often referred to as the "Parable of the Sower." It is a convenient, if misguided, way to call this powerful parable to mind. In my ever so humble opinion it should be referred to as the "Parable of the Soils" as this is what is truly in view here. Into these various types of soil the sower places mysterious and powerful things called seeds.
Seeds are truly marvels of God's creation. I find it amusing that one site calls them "miracles of the evolutionary process." ("Miracle" and "evolution" are not concepts that you often find side by side.) Seeds are vast in their variety but simple in their purpose - they grow plants! The largest seed in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is from the Coco del Mer tree that grows in the Seychelles of the eastern coast of Africa. These seeds grow to a mammoth 40 pounds! By contrast some orchids in the Amazon have seeds that are so small that there are estimated to be 35 million seeds in an ounce (yes you read that correctly). Far and away the greastest contrast between size of the seed and size of the resulting plant is the Sequoia. These seeds are mustard seed tiny and yet they produce the single largest living organism on the face of the earth! Amazing stuff these seeds!
Seeds are powerful unless the ground is hard. As Jesus describes this faithful agriculturalist going about his business his listeners undoubtedly visualized some of those powerful resevoirs of life falling on unsuitable ground. Alas the same is true today. There are hard hearts that are unready and unable to receive the seed of the truth. It is amazing that even a simple truth like that found in Romans 3:23 can be rejected by individuals. Hard soil just won't provide a place for a seed to grow. No matter how powerful the seed it is useless until it finds a place to grow. I believe there is also hard soil in the lives of those who follow Jesus. There are a lot of us who know we should be doing some things and we're just not. Scripture plainly calls this sin. Hard ground.
Likewise, seeds are powerful unless the soil is shallow. As a shepherd I get called on during times of crisis fairly often. I'm glad to come alongside folks during these moments but I am often astounded by the variety of responses to a crisis. Some will approach it with the calm assurance of God's sufficient grace while others will be overcome with anxiety, some even turn away from the very One they need in these moments. Shallow soil. It has been said that American Christianity is 2 miles wide and 2 inches deep. Not a bad critique in general and it points to a desperate need to grow deeper in our faith because troubles will come. Is there a depth of faith in our lives to support us during dry and difficult seasons?
Seeds are powerful unless the ground is busy with other things. One thing I have discovered in my limited garden keeping efforts is that weeds need no encouragement to grow. In fact, if I simply leave my garden untended for a week I will discover that the weeds have multiplied at an astounding rate. I did not invite them or enourage them they simply show up. Should I leave my garden untended for two weeks I can just about give up as the weeds will have completly taken over.
Weeds choke out life and crowd out fruit. They steal precious and needed nutrients from the plants that are producing good fruit. They grow quickly and can overwhelm the life that is desired. But getting rid of them is a burden. It has to be done regularly and intimately. Weed pulling requires getting your hands dirty and even getting down on your knees sometimes.
How's the soil of your soul today? Is it hard? Do you need to turn over some new soil in your life to make a place for the powerful seed of God's Word to go to work? Is it shallow? Do you need to do some soil improvement, pull some rocks out and put in some fertile soil in order to see the powerful seed of God's Word take firm root in your life? Or is it, as I suspect it is for many, busy with other things? We are a people who are too busy too often. When was the last time you spent time on your knees before God and examined the soil of your soul? If it's been awhile I can assure you there are some life choking, life robbing weeds that will need to be pulled. It's hard work but it is oh so worth it!
Jesus ends this parable by saying, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." Are you listening?