Today’s read of Matthew 13 gives us several parables that Jesus taught about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus often taught in parables, which are simply stories using familiar, natural things to explain a spiritual truth. Many times, Jesus spoke clearly to the crowds and there was no mistaking His meaning. Why would He speak in parables? His disciples asked Him this very question, and His response was to quote from Isaiah 6, where God tells the prophet Isaiah He is sending him to a people who will listen but not hear, and see but not perceive because their hearts will be insensitive and dull. Likewise, Jesus hid the meaning of His teaching from the Pharisees and religious leaders because their hearts were hard, and they refused to believe.
The parable of the sower illustrates how important the condition of the heart is relative to understanding the gospel message. There were four types of soil, and four results, but only one type of seed, which is the Word, the “message of the kingdom,” the gospel.
* The seed scattered along the path was eaten by the birds. This represents the heart that does not understand the message, and the evil one snatches away what was sown in their hearts.
* The seed which fell on rocky soil sprang up quickly, but soon withered because it had no root. This refers to the heart that hears the word and receives it with joy, but they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the gospel, they fall away.
* The seed which fell among thorns grows up but is choked by the plants represents the heart that hears the word, but the worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth choke it out, making it unfruitful.
* The seed which falls on good soil, however, takes root, grows, and produces a great crop. This represents the heart that hears the word and understands it and results in a fruitful, changed life.
There are so many lessons in this parable, but the one that jumps out to me is that nowhere does Jesus say the soil has to remain in its current condition. Part of “sowing the gospel” into the lives of the people we know and love is “working the soil.” How can we help others grow in their understanding of the truth of God’s word? How can we help them root out the worries of life? How can we help them overcome the deceitfulness of wealth, exposing the emptiness of a life built on this world’s values, this culture? How can we keep the enemy from stealing the seeds of truth we drop into conversations and interactions with them?
This parable has much wisdom for us, but I especially see its value if you are raising children. Your job is not just to provide for the physical and emotional well-being of your child, but to work the soil of their heart, speaking, teaching and modeling truth so that when the time comes and they hear the gospel message one more time, it will fall on good soil, soil that has been lovingly and patiently prepared to receive it, and take root, bearing salvation in their lives.
How’s the soil of your heart? How’s the soil of the hearts of the people around you? What do you need to do so that the seeds of the gospel will bear fruit in your own life, and in those with whom you are sharing?