Matthew 13:18-23, “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The vast majority of people do not remember what their pastors preach from week to week, but if something is going to find its way into our long term memory; it will probably be a story. The parables of Jesus tend to be well known anecdotes.
Although the parable of the sower is one I have read and/or heard many times, something fresh came to mind as I studied it this week. We often talk about the different kinds of soil… the different kinds of people… and at the end of the day we encourage others to ‘just’ plant seeds, because it is not our job to make them grow. That’s actually biblically sound (see I Cor. 3:6). But the thing that stood out to me, this time around, is that we could likely make an enormous difference in the lives of hearers if we would only take the time to cultivate the soil. Who’s to say we can’t affect change for the outcome if we will help people to understand… to grow deep… to eradicate the weeds?
I am not a gardener, although I wish I was. My grandparents were great at growing things. I cannot begin to recount how many childhood hours I spent snapping beans with my Mammaw and Paw in their urban backyard (probably ½ or which was a garden) or picking strawberries with my Nana. These people put a ton of time into cultivating the ground, planting the seeds, caring for the crops as they grew, and then harvesting.
My own (adult) gardening experience was short lived and looked something like this:
I didn’t have the right tools; I bought several packages of seeds of different varieties off a Walmart shelf; about fifteen minutes into trying to prepare an absurdly small patch of earth, I dug a few holes and threw the seeds in and left them in hopes that beautiful vegetables might appear. It was something like the path, the rocky ground, and the thorns and weeds all wrapped up in one messy package! Miraculously, I produced two or three zucchinis, a couple of baby carrots (we didn’t eat those), and four pumpkins (which was exactly how many I needed, because I only had four kids at the time). I haven’t planted anything since.
I will probably never be a gardener (of crops… of flowers…), but I think we all have a responsibility to not only sow seed in humanity but to tend to it in such a way that our people have the best possible chance to grow.
Later today I will post a podcast about discipleship and confirmation, related to this passage of Scripture. I hope you’ll tune in!