30th October 2011


“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed….”
Matthew 13:3 (NIV UK) 

Jesus liked to use examples from everyday life to teach spiritual lessons. One he used was that of a sower scattering seeds. In Jesus’ day, sowers scattered seeds by hand and, while most of the seeds fell on good soil, some fell into places where they couldn’t grow. 

In the parable, Jesus spoke of seeds falling on rocky places, thorny places and good soil. And he compared the seeds with people in order to illustrate how people respond to the gospel. Note, by the way, that the parable is not suggesting that God sows people in rocky places and thorny places so that they will fail to believe the gospel. It’s telling us that the way some people receive the gospel is like seed sown in rocky places. It is a comparison, an illustration, as to how some people deal with the gospel. It is not a justification for viewing God as deliberately making it impossible for some to embrace the gospel. 

Jesus was comparing people who abandon the word of God in the face of persecution with seeds that grow in rocky places and therefore have little root. In a similar way, people who let the word of God take a back seat to the worries of life and the pursuit of wealth are like seeds that get choked among thorns and shrivel. In contrast, people who hear the word of God and accept it and produce the fruit of it are like seeds that germinate in good soil where there are no impediments to healthy growth. 

But people, of course, actually are not seeds, and God does not actually cast people into situations which prevent them from accepting the gospel. Jesus’ parables should not be pushed beyond the point that Jesus intended them to make. Seeds don’t think. They don’t make choices. They don’t have the ability to ask God for help. But we do. 

So the point of the parable is not to tell us that when it comes to the gospel that we are victims of chance, mere hapless seeds either doomed or blessed merely because of the happenstance of the sower’s indiscriminate scattering. No, the point of the parable is that we should take steps not to act like helpless seeds. 

In other words, when we find ourselves letting the cares of this world put the gospel on the back burner of our lives, then Jesus wants us to take note and make a change. He wants us to deepen our spiritual roots, to chop up the spiritual thorns in our lives. He wants us to nestle into the good soil of spending time in his word, of taking our concerns, needs and triumphs to him in prayer. He wants us to put the word of God to use in what we choose to do, to let the gospel flow out from us in kindness, mercy and peace. 

It would be easy to use the parable of the sower as a tool to judge others, to look down on people we think are weak in the faith and destined to fall away. But it is harder—and far more useful—to let the parable of the sower teach us and admonish us to keep an eye on our hearts, to make sure that greed, pride and anxious care about possessions and self-importance are not easing into the driver’s seat in our lives. 

Holy Father, as human beings we are so easily distracted, so easily led aside from the way you lead us to. We ask for your involvement in our lives to keep us on track, focussed and determined to follow your leadership as we develop as Christians. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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