Parable of the Sower…What kind of soil are you?
Sometimes we say people speak in riddles. By that we usually mean they are hard to understand in some way. Jesus spoke in riddles called parables. The reason he spoke in parables was to divide his listeners. Those who wanted to understand would seek the answers to understand what he was saying. Those who were not interested would not bother and just go their own way not caring about what Jesus was saying. We see that in the parable of the Sower. The disciples don’t understand but they ask Jesus what it means.
The parable is about seed and whether it grows. The seed, we are told, is the word of the kingdom. It is the message of Jesus. Let’s think for a minute about how we hear the word of the kingdom. How it comes to us.
First and foremost we hear the word proclaimed. This might be a sermon in church; it might be testimony shared by a friend; it might be a message at a small group like a bible study. People also hear the word of the kingdom by reading the bible or reading a book that tells the good news in some manner. There are magazines and newspapers that share the good news as well.
If you are a person of faith, how do you engage with the word of the kingdom? Do you only hear it in church? Do you seek out the words of eternal life in your daily life, even if daily by reading the bible or using some form of devotional tools? Maybe you belong to a small group. Maybe you read some kind of Christian literature.
The heart of the parable though is not so much how the seed gets to you or about the sower. It is about what happens when you hear the word of the kingdom and the soil. The parable discusses four different soils.
First soil: seed falls on the path/birds eat it: explanation–evil one snatches it away because they do not understand.
This is about the reality that some people hear the word of the kingdom, the good news, the gospel and it does not take root. They, out of indifference or defiance don’t let the seed take root in any way. It never becomes part of their life. The explanation relates it to understanding. If you are not interested and you are wholly content in your self-contained world, then you do not bother to understand. Faith requires that in some way the person chooses to engage with the word of the kingdom. To accept it enough to explore it and consider it and weigh it as an option. For many people their world view will not let them understand. They are not seeking or searching.
Second soil: seed falls on rocky ground/not much soil/sun scorches: explanation–received it with joy immediately, when trouble and persecution comes they fall away.
Other people are searching, curious, wanting to find the answers to the big questions of life. The seed immediately takes root in their life. But it does not take deep root. As soon as a question comes that they cannot answer or things get challenging, they move on and leave the word of the kingdom behind. A lot of people are spiritual vagabonds. They move from one spiritual idea to another. Whatever makes them feel good and gives a sense of self-fulfilment, that is what works for a time. The Christian faith is challenging. It is not about self-fulfilment (though that is part of it). It is ultimately about recognising God as Lord and God’s love given to us in Christ Jesus. For some, it is attractive but requires too much commitment.
Third soil: seed falls among the thorns, thorns choke the plants: explanation–cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word and it yields nothing.
This seed, this word of the kingdom actually takes root and grows. A person embarks seriously on the Christian path. But eventually, something comes and uproots and replaces the word of the kingdom. The cares of the world are not so much problems, but when something comes and takes priority. For some people that can be a relationship. They stop practising their faith because it gets in the way of a relationship with someone they are attracted to or in love with. It can be a job and career which takes hold of one’s life so that it consumes one’s time and energy and life so that there is no room for anything else. For others success or the desire for success and wealth become so important that the way of faith becomes a bother and a nuisance, a hindrance, a complication so that one abandons the Christian perspective.
Fourth soil: sSeed falls on good soil and brings forth grain: hears the word and understands and bears fruit.
Clearly the ideal is the person who receives the seed with joy and does what is necessary to let the seed grow to bear fruit. The key word is ‘understanding’. Remember what the word disciple means. It means learner. To embark on a life of faith means that one has faith that seeks understanding. One has faith that wants to understand more about who God is, how God acts, what a Christian should believe, how a Christian should live, how a Christian can serve others.
The path of deep rooted faith means one engages with all that is there to help one grow in understanding; as our diocesan slogan says, to go deeper into God.
In conclusion, this parable has two questions for us to consider. First, what kind of soil are we: a path where the seed cannot grow, rocky soil where the roots don’t go deep, thorny soil where the seed that grows is choked and dies or good soil? The second question is, if we are good soil, what do we do to ensure that we bear much fruit? What are we doing to nurture our faith so that it grows and deepens and bears fruit? The parable leaves you and me to go away and consider.