May We Be Fertile Soil
Jesus spoke often in parables. A parable is like a metaphor, fable or analogy that makes people think—that makes people draw the connection between the story and their life.
Matthew 13 records many of Jesus’ parables. The first is a parable having to do with a sower, seeds and various kinds of soil. In the parable, a farmer sows seeds, tossing them around rather indiscriminately. Some seeds land on the path where they become easy pickings for the birds. Other seeds fall on rocky ground. William Barclay explains, “The stony ground was not ground filled with stones; it was what was common in Palestine, a thin skin of earth on top of an underlying shelf of limestone rock. The earth might be only a very few inches deep before the rock was reached. On such ground the seed would…germinate quickly, because the ground grew speedily warm with the heat of the sun. But there was no depth of earth and when it sent down its roots in search of nourishment and moisture, it would meet only the rock, and would be starved to death, and quite unable to withstand the heat of the sun.” Other seeds fall among thorns which choke the farmer’s grain when it begins to grow. Yet other seeds fall in good soil, and they produce grain thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or even a hundredfold.
This is a story that was intended to get the people thinking about the connection between the story and their lives. But when the disciples have trouble figuring out the meaning of the parable, Jesus explains it to them. Jesus tells them that the seed is the message of the kingdom of God, which Jesus is spreading quite indiscriminately throughout Judea. Some people hear the message, but their hearts are not open to it, so it is easily snatched away from them before it penetrates into their soul. Other people hear the message and get excited about it and start to grow, but the depth of their souls is shallow so the roots cannot go down very deep. Therefore, as soon as troubles fall upon them, their faith withers and dies. Other people hear the message, but they are deeply entangled in the cares of this life, worrying about their personal pleasures and popularity. Their obsession with the things of this world chokes away their faith. But some people listen to the message of God’s kingdom with open and receptive hearts. The message takes root in their hearts, and they produce a rich spiritual harvest.
What is the point of this parable? Why did Jesus tell it to the crowd that day? Why is it in our Bibles for us to read?
The point of this parable is that how we respond to Jesus’ words matters greatly. How we respond to Christ’s words determines whether our faith flourishes, and whether or not our lives produce any spiritual fruit.
Jesus does not want his words to get plucked away from our hearts before they have a chance to change us. He does not want us to receive his word joyfully for only a short time; he wants his words to establish roots in us so that our faith can last through the scorching conditions of life. He does not want the cares of this world to choke away God’s work in us. He wants us to bear spiritual fruit in our lives.
E. Schuyler English tells the story of a man in Long Island, New York, who bought an expensive barometer, but when he brought it home the arrow seemed to be stuck, pointing to the section marked “Hurricane.” The man shook the barometer, but the indicator remained stuck on “Hurricane.” He wrote a scorching letter to the store where he had purchased the barometer and dropped it in the mailbox on his way to work in New York City. That evening, the man returned to Long Island to find that the barometer was missing…and so was his home. By not heeding the message of the barometer, that man lost his house. If we do not heed the words of Christ, we may lose our faith and/or any meaningful spiritual growth.