A QUESTION OF GOOD SOIL
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
Living in Lorain County, Ohio, a good percentage of people understand the importance of good soil when planting a garden or seeding a field. You might be one of them. You understand what happens to seed when put into the ground. It takes work, time and patience to grow a healthy plant. As a young boy, I recall my first experience growing a plant. My mother, who loved her garden, brought me a small box filled with dirt and some flower seeds. “Son, we’ll put some seeds in the dirt, cover it up, water it, and watch the plants grow.” I watched every day but nothing seemed to be happening. One day I moved the dirt. Chagrined, my mother exclaimed: “What are you doing? You’ll kill the seed. Just water it and you’ll see it grow.” Sure enough, after two weeks, small green shoots appeared. It was exciting for a young boy to witness a miracle of nature. Soon, the shoots developed into beautiful, healthy flowers.
Jesus told many parables when teaching the crowds, taking everyday situations He knew they understood and making spiritual application. The “Parable of The Sower” appears in the three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Essentially, each writer records similar versions of Jesus’ words with slightly different details. This shouldn’t disturb us, as it substantiates the Bible’s claim that the Holy Spirit guided each writer, using their unique personalities, to give us the Word of God, truthful and without error, our fundamental standard for life and godliness. Here is Mathew’s version, Chapter 13:1- 9.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
The disciples were puzzled and asked Jesus what the parable meant. Jesus explained. While the Sower is not identified, he could be Jesus or perhaps any person testifying to the gospel or the “kingdom of heaven”. The Sower scatters the Seed, which is the Word of God. The Path, or hard soil, represents people who hear the Word but the devil (the birds) quickly takes it away so they won’t believe and be saved. Their hearts are hard and indifferent; they carry no sense of guilt or shame; they are unwilling to accept the truth of the Word. They are easy prey for Satan’s attack. The Rocky Soil are those who first receive the Word with joy, but no roots develop. These people believe for a while but when life gets hard or their immature faith is ridiculed and tested, like the “baby” plant, they whither under the hot sun and fall away. Their feelings are changed but not their soul. There is no sense of lostness or repentance.
Thorny/Weedy Soil are people who receive the Word, but their spiritual life is choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures. Their lives are consumed by worry and anxiety, not finding their hope in the foundational truths of the Word. Some pursue other “idols” like money, possessions, prestige, power, sex, or pleasure, leaving no room for the life-giving work of the Word. These are what dominate their lives. They may even have a veneer of faith, perhaps even frequent church, but any spiritual growth or fruitfulness is choked off by these and other “hidden idols of the world”. “To be caught up in the worries of everyday living and to fall prey to the seductive appeal of financial well-being is to guarantee a spiritual crop failure.” (R. H. Mounce)
Finally, the Good Soil represents those who hear and receive the Word; their eyes and hearts are opened to the life-changing and life-giving work of the Word. Their hearts are “good soil” in which the gospel takes deep root. Their character is increasingly transformed. Their relationship with God and the pursuit of His kingdom becomes their all-consuming passion. Their priorities are to (quoting Trinity’s mission statement): “Love God, Love People, Serve the Community”. These people produce generous fruit. The percentages reflected in the parable are, in today’s terms, remarkable: 10,000 percent, 6,000 percent, and 3,000 percent! “Believers differ in fruit bearing because they differ in commitment to obedience, but all are profusely fruitful.” (J. MacArthur)
The question to each one of us then is: “What kind of soil represents my life?” There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the first three, outside of degrees of unbelief. It seems that the Good Soil is the only one in which the Word can flourish. If we have professed faith in Christ alone by grace alone, we will live lives in which the seed of the Word has taken root and produces abundant fruit for the kingdom of heaven. Thankfully, we have a “Helper” in the Holy Spirit to become “healthy plants” for God’s glory. This is His desire for all His sons and daughters.