One of the most well known parables is perhaps the Parable of the Sower. Perhaps one of those reasons is because it is this parable that Jesus choose to use to explain WHY he teaches in parables. So unlike the other parables, He actually walks us through what is meant by this story. All the other parables we are left to interpret what He is saying, but this one is clear. However, knowing the moving parts of the story and getting all of the wisdom contained in the story are two different things.
Here is the full parable…
Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt 4:1-9)
In church after church, discipleship program after discipleship program, we see evidence of a sales and marketing thought process creep in. In business, if you know there are four types of prospects out there and you know that one of those types of prospects will yield fruit that is thirty, sixty or a hundredfold, you are likely to focus your efforts towards those prospects.
In church, we call this group seekers. They are already open to seeking a better understanding of the universe and are open to the concept of a Supreme being or even a God. Their “soil” is ripe and ready for planting and once planted and fertilized, will yield significant fruit. The problem with this knowledge is that we can fall into the business minded trap of focusing our efforts at this group of seekers only.
However to do this would miss a significant part of Jesus’ parable. You see… no where in the parable does Jesus suggest that the sower adjusted his sowing based on the status of the ground. A sower can obviously see what ground is a path, what ground is rocky or has thorns and what ground is fertile and ripe. In fact, that sower likely spent time and effort making that soil ripe and ready. So why did he bother to sow seed in the other soils?
For one thing, we are the sower… and it is not for us to decide where we plant the seed… where we spread the Gospel message. We are called to sow. This sower in Jesus’ parable spent valuable resources (his time and his seed) in all of the soils… without regard to the potential crop results. A beaten down path, heavy rocks and thorns… didn’t discourage him from sowing. And he didn’t spend all of his time trying to cultivate that land into good soil… he just kept sowing.
The Gospel message is our seed. We can sow that seed in many ways. Some sow by posting a billboard on a highway… hitting the highest audience but perhaps the lowest level of success. Some stand on a corner and preach… with perhaps a similar result of the billboard. There are a lot of ways to attempt to sow the Gospel message in the world and I’m not about to claim one is better than the other. Perhaps all are necessary to some degree.
However there is one thing that is clearly stated about our ability to sow well. As the sower, we ought to live our life in a manner “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27a) By living a life worthy of the Gospel, our life can be a living seed, being sown as we go, regardless of the type of soil we are around.
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