Matthew 13:8 “Still other seed fell on good ground and produced fruit: some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown.”
A few years ago I built 5 raised beds in my backyard and started a vegetable garden. I’m no expert. I’m not even decent really. But I enjoy it and every year I grow all manner of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, tomatillos, peppers and a frenzy of diseases. I’ve also spent enough on this whole gardening ordeal to buy groceries for a lifetime, but I can’t get picky about this. Something I’ve always been jealous of though are those sophisticated gardeners who grow their own seedlings indoors. They start thinking about their summer gardens in the frostbitten grip of January. When the rest of us have our hearts set on casseroles, they’re dreaming of heirloom melons.
As gardening fate would have it this past Christmas I was speaking at a church in California where I met a woman who worked for a seed company. The next evening she brought me a bag brimming with seed packets like I was Joel Salatin. I’m talking seeds for people who know what they’re doing. For a gardener it was a dream; for an amateur like myself it was a bag of pressure. These seeds have been staring at me since Christmas. How could I bear the guilt of not putting such a remarkable gift to good use?
Fast forward to this past weekend where I turned my office desk into a seedling workbench–this is as classy as it sounds. I assembled two light stands, hung adjustable lights, filled my seedling cells with soil and began sifting through my seeds and plotting out my plan. (Never mind that from the outside of my window this all looks like a rather questionable operation.)
Being the seed-starting novice I am, I invited two very helpful assistants over who happen to travel in car seats. Harper filled the containers with soil and Will wrote out the identification tags. Apparently “San Marzano” and “Gilboa Peppers” haven’t shown up in his kindergarten curriculum yet—what do these kids do all day in school? Growing seeds is a fussy process in many respects I’m realizing. The soil needs to be moist but not overly wet or dry for the seeds to germinate. My next purchase is a spray bottle. A plastic lid is needed to protect the seedlings from disease while being transparent enough for the florescent light to penetrate. Most seeds need to be dropped 1/4″ below the surface—not too shallow, not too deep. I found this all a little stressful.
The timing of this experiment was particularly interesting to me because I happened to have just heard a powerful message on Jesus’ parable of the sower. In Matthew 13 Jesus’ teaching is quite straightforward, simple enough for Will to understand:
The seed is God’s Word.
The soil is our hearts.
The seed goes into the soil when we hear God’s Word.
The harvest depends on the soil.
We might be tempted to think that if our lives aren't producing the abundant harvest of God’s Kingdom that something is wrong with the seed. Click To TweetWe might be tempted to think that if our lives aren’t producing the abundant harvest of God’s Kingdom that something is wrong with the seed. (This is exactly what I’ll blame things on if my seedlings don’t sprout.) But Jesus’ teaching is always good seed. It contains everything necessary for life and producing an extraordinary harvest. If we’re having problems it’s our soil that’s the issue.
Soil Too Shallow For Roots
Jesus begins by describing seed that’s cast on a well-worn path. The soil in this case is too hardened to receive the seed so the seed lays atop the path only to be carried away by birds. Jesus explains that this soil reflects the heart of those who hear Jesus’ teaching but before the Word sinks in the enemy snatches it away. (Notice that hearing God’s Word is present in all 4 examples).
Soil Deep Enough For Shallow Roots
This second example of soil is slightly better than the first in that the seed can actually nestle itself beneath the surface. The unforeseeable problem is that bedrock lies just beneath the soil. In this case the seed sprouts and shoots up with wild determination. But when the sun’s merciless heat is unfurled the plant withers and dies. In this parable the sun’s heat represents the difficulties in life that come as a result of following Jesus’ teaching. The soil in this parable reflects the heart of someone who hears Jesus’ teaching with joy but never grows roots deep enough to sustain it.
Soil That Grows Both Plants and Thorns
The third soil appears to be fertile enough to grow plants but with the added presence of thorns. The seed germinates and develops roots in this soil but other players are also present. The thorns of worries and wealth grow up around the good seedling, eventually choking it so it never bears fruit. This reflects the heart of the one who hears Jesus’ teaching but falls prey to the deceit of materialism and empty promises of money that can never satisfy.
The last example is of seed that falls on good soil. It’s loose enough to envelop the seed; Deep enough for the seed to develop roots without the threat of bedrock; Clear of weeds and thorns. Here Jesus is portraying the heart of a person who hears His teaching and understands it. Or as Luke 8 says, who receives it with an honest and good heart–holding onto it with endurance.
Friends, what is your heart’s soil in relation to Jesus’ teaching? Just because we’re hearing it on Sunday or hearing it in Bible study or even hearing it when we read our Bible, is it falling on good soil? Are you receiving it with a willing heart, free of hardened stubbornness and choking cares? Hearing the Word is not necessarily receiving it any more than tossing a seed into a pot and walking away will ensure its growth. My prayer for us this week is that we’ll stop blaming the seed and take an honest look at the soil.
God’s Word is always good seed, every time. And when it falls on good soil it’s been said to yield some 30, some 60, some 100 times what was sown. Because good seed plus good soil bears an abundant harvest. The Sower promises it.