There is a parable that Jesus taught about sowing seeds. Perhaps it is my age, perhaps it is my longing for Spring, or perhaps it is my restless spirit but I just can’t help but think about the various meanings to be gleaned from this parable. In fact this parable is written down in Matthew 13:1-9, and Mark 4:1-9 and Luke 8:4-8. Let’s read it together from the book of Matthew.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:1-9, (New International Version or NIV).
I simply can not imagine how Jesus coped with all the crowds that gathered wherever He went, but they came. They came to be healed, to be taken care of, and to be given hope. I used to live near a lake and I loved the serenity of life near the water. I loved watching the birds, the boaters, and the waves. Jesus must have been tired and just wanted a little bit of quiet time but could only get it by climbing into a boat and rowing out from the shore. Still the people came to the water’s edge to hear Him speak. He must have been a really good story-teller because a parable is just that, a good story with a hidden moral meaning. Notice how the passage above states that Jesus told many parables to the people on that day. A simple story about a farmer that went out to plant his seeds is this parable. Let’s dive into this parable.
Some seed fell next to the path that people walked on and the birds came quickly and ate it. I can just see the old farmer walking along a foot path scattering his seeds and I can see how the birds fly down and eat all his scattered seeds, can’t you? Now why in the world would a farmer be trying to plant a crop along a foot path? Some of us may plant flowers along our sidewalks and foot paths, but we certainly wouldn’t plant a crop in such a place. I remember last summer planting some seeds in a pot on my patio and a bird came and dug up half of the seeds and ate them. Birds can sure find a tiny seed and go for it when they are hungry, that’s for sure. I think that there have been times in my life when I invested my time and talents into projects that never got finished. I think of people I tried to help but they didn’t seem to want to help themselves and only sponged off me. I think of spending a lot of time and money for a college education that I have never used to gain employment. Yes, I can relate to sowing seeds in the wrong place and having nothing to show for it.
Some seed fell where the soil was rocky and the seeds grew quickly but because the root system didn’t have enough soil the plants died in the sunshine. It seems to me that an experienced farmer would clear the land of rocks before planting his seeds. This farmer didn’t do that but instead learned the hard way that seeds need deep soil to maintain a solid root system in order to grow and mature. I can sure identify with this part of the parable too. I can think of times in my life when I worked with enthusiasm but I didn’t really know what I was doing. Oh I had a plan but it just wasn’t that well thought out. I think of the years I wasted in encouraging someone’s fledgling faith and how I tried to nurture it and help it to grow but in the end that faith just wasn’t strong enough because the person had no deep root system anchored in God. Yes I can identify with this part of the parable.
Some seed fell into unclean soil and the weeds sprang up with the crop and choked the life out of the plant until you couldn’t tell which was good seed and which was just a weed. Oh how I can remember times in my life where I spent months and years nurturing and teaching my children to love and honor God. I felt that my duty, my joy, was to stay in the home and be the anchor for my family and for a while it seemed that all was going well. The children grew up and knew the basics of the faith and I felt like my life of nurturing and teaching was not wasted. And then a divorce came and like weeds and thorns it seems to me that my years of labor were wiped out practically overnight. Relationships changed. Attitudes changed. Life changed. Yes, I can relate to this part of the passage.
And finally the farmer planted his seed in good soil and the harvest was huge. Sometimes in life I have wondered where the good soil is located. I searched for it but feel that I never really found it, but is that really true? Perhaps the moral of this parable is not the seeds being scattered but the soil in which it was planted. Perhaps the point is that there are people who are in various stages of rebellion and so the seed can’t be rooted deeply. Perhaps the point of the parable is that we are the soil and not the farmer. Perhaps the good soil is me and the farmer is the Holy Spirit. Maybe the point of this parable is that we can have relationships and interactions with others but we can’t stand before God for them. No, they will stand alone when it is their time and we will stand alone when it is our time. When I think of all the trials and tribulations and pain and suffering that I have experienced in my life thus far I can honestly say that my heart, my attitude, my desires, my hopes and dreams have all gone through a transformation and I trust that it has been all part of me becoming the woman God intends me to be. The greatest changes in my life have made me be a better person, to recognize pain in others and to reach out to comfort them. The greatest challenges to my faith have only made my faith stronger in Jesus. The only person I can change is me. My influence can only go so far in others and I have always tried to influence others to do what is good and righteous and right in God’s eyes. But in the end each person has to make their own choices and live with the consequences good or bad. So is there anything more that New Testament teaches about farming?
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10, (NIV).
This is quite a warning for all of us, don’t you think? If we are the farmer in the parable Jesus taught then we need to keep scattering our seeds, we need to keep sowing but we must be careful what seeds we are sowing. If we, as Christians, continue to do good things and help others then we are pleasing to God. Isn’t that the point of a Christian’s life to be pleasing to God? Yes, I think so. But we also can read here that if a person doesn’t do good things, doesn’t live a good life, and be a good person then they will also receive a harvest that is not good. I think this passage again shows that the seed is our deeds and we are to not pass up an opportunity to spread our seed for the Kingdom of God. But if we are not the farmer but the soil then we need to make certain as Christians that we have good and productive soil for the seeds planted by the Holy Spirit to grow. We need to be sure that the rocks and weeds are gone, that we are rich in the nutrients of the Christian faith and that we will be useful and productive. There is one more passage we need to look at.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, (NIV).
A Christian is to be generous and not selfish. This is important because our Lord is so generous to us. Not always are our seeds that we sow money. We also have time and talents that we need to be generous with. I can think of different seasons of my life where I didn’t have money to spare and so I taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and I played the piano or organ for church and sang special music and directed the choir. I used what I had to give which was my time and my talents to benefit the body of Christ. In other seasons of life I have been blessed with money to be able to give generously where I can. Today I am using my talent of writing and teaching to build up the Kingdom of God. I think the point I am trying to make is that we all have something to give to the work of the Lord. We are all either farmers spreading our seed and hoping for a good harvest or we are the good soil ready to be used by the Holy Spirit for the Kingdom of God. Either way, today, we are to be ready, to not grow weary along the way because a huge harvest is coming! I hope this helps you to be encouraged as you walk in faith today.