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I remember a homework assignment from the 6th Grade. Our task was to ask our parents what they knew of our family history, particularly what nationalities we had in our bloodlines. The purpose was to better understand the ‘melting pot’ that has made up our society as we studied the impact and influence of immigration on American culture.
Fortunately for me, both my parents had a passion for where their families had come from and had a wealth of information for me. The combination of my mother and father basically made me into four parts: English, French, Irish and German.
Having four parts becomes a wonderful segue into what I’m writing about today, the four types of soil Jesus mentioned in the parable of the Sower found in Matthew Chapter 13.
Actually, saying there are four types of soil is incorrect: there is only one mentioned by the Lord, though it is represented in four different ways. I had the opportunity to preach a message on the Sower last Sunday evening, and I thought I would share some of what I said with you, Dear Reader.
I have taught/preached on the Parable of the Sower in the past, but the wonderful thing about God’s word is that it is truly living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Each time I ponder it for discussion, Holy Spirit tends to show me something I had not noticed before.
This time was no different in that regard. I have often thought of the four soils Jesus mentions as being separate and distinct from each other. This time, I was reminded that God made the soil (earth) way back in Genesis Chapter 1:9-10. After His work on the third day of creation, God declared the land ‘good.’ One soil, good at creation, now having been affected by the circumstances of the fallen world around it. Jesus then describes it in the following ways, a path, rocky, weed infested and finally good.”
Much as I am the product of four nationalities in my physical make-up, if I am to be honest with you, I must admit that all four ‘soil conditions’ can be present in my spiritual life at any time.
In the parable, Jesus describes the first three as being unable to support the healthy and spiritually vibrant life God wants to sow into each of us. The Lord describes this first as a path. I ask: was it always a path? Had been beaten down by years of being tromped on? Remember, Jesus used parables to help us see and learn things. This picture allows me to see where my heart has become spiritually hardened, having allowed circumstances and troubles to take away its suppleness. In this condition, the goodness of God bounces off, gaining no penetration, just like the seeds did on the path. I must be aware of and looking for any places in me that are becoming hardened. Snap judgments and a lack of empathy are indicators of a hard path developing.
The second soil condition mentioned in this parable is rocky. Here, Jesus said, the seeds fell and germinated quickly but because of the many rocks, there was not enough soil to sustain the seedlings life. The soil was too shallow. For me, becoming shallow is a constant threat. As a ‘fixer,’ if I hear of a problem, I want to dive in and correct it. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I must be careful to treat each opportunity more holistically. More often than not, addressing a symptom is not the only remedy required. To look into something more deeply, however, requires me to spend the time and energy to do so. When I don’t, I am more like the rocky soil Jesus mentioned. May we never be so shallow as to not allow the richness of God and His word dwell and grow in our hearts, especially as we are called to minister to others.
The next problem addressed by Jesus is that of weed infestation. He mentioned that the cares of life and the pursuit of the deceitfulness of wealth can choke out the word He wants to sow in us. I have never had trouble seeing how worry can do this. I have struggled with this all my life. I worry about a thing, usually running through my mind all the possible negative outcomes of whatever it is I am mulling over. The old saying often applies to me: Worry is the interest we pay on things that never come to be. Worry is all about me! I have taken the focus off the greatness of God and put myself in His place. It’s as if I’m saying what I have going on is beyond His ability to help with. That is some weed-infested thinking! It is no wonder I flounder in my spirit when I am cultivating that kind of crop.
The deceitfulness of wealth works much the same way. Either I am distracted in my pursuit of more of it or worried about how I will maintain what I have. Both of these lines of thought are again supremely selfish, as I once more put myself in the very middle of the universe.
Jesus saves the best for last, however! He says that some seed falls on good soil where it produces an abundant crop for the kingdom of God. Earlier I mentioned that all soil was good at creation. This tells me that God knew/knows what He is doing! In my case, and hopefully yours as well, He has used the events and circumstances of life to till our hearts into soft and plant-able ground to be used for His purpose. The parts of my soil (heart) that are good are because of His tender care, not because of anything I have done. My part is to be aware of what He is up to, and then to simply ask for His guidance to make even more of the soil that is me to be pliable in His hands.
The Sower, God, spreads only good seed. Though some falls on places that will not receive it or allow it to grow, you and I can, through humble obedience to His will, be a part of the abundant crop Jesus describes! I pray we all have a long and healthy growing season!
Blessings and thanks for reading,