Jesus told the following story to the crowd of people who were following Him.
Listen! 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, so that they did not bear grain.
Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Later He explained what the parable meant,
The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
I find the story offers clear cautionary advice about the way we treat and receive God’s word, and the things that can prevent it from being fruitful in our lives.
1) We can allow birds/ Satan to snatch it away before it has any effect. It isn’t allowed to penetrate into our lives so becomes an easy target for removal. Something prevents the importance and relevance from being grasped and nurtured, it is ignored ,and therefore quickly lost.
When I’ve thought of “the path” where seed falls, I have pictured one of those tracks worn through a field by frequent foot traffic. People taking the easy route, creating a path trodden down and established by regular traffic. It gives me a metaphor for the traditional ways of those who have gone before, leaving us with a well-trodden rut to blindly follow and creates the kind of surface impervious to seed falling upon it. The perfect, seed resistant feeding ground for hungry birds (Satan).
2) Similarly, seed/ the word can be lost if its not given enough room in our lives. The initial acceptance of it isn’t nurtured and fed, so the roots don’t become established and its effectiveness is allowed to wither and die, especially when difficulties arise. How easy it is for discouragement to set in, How easy to give up when things start to get difficult.
It’s no coincidence that faith and patience are linked together as needed when we are believing one of God’s promises. Without patience faith will give up when results aren’t seen as soon as we would like. We have to retain confidence in the integrity of God and His word and not allow sensory experience to make us doubt them.
3) Thirdly, the seed/word might be received and nurtured, even producing some growth, but it gets mixed with other interests and cares, and while there may be an appearance of health, that can be deceiving, and what may seem to be a thriving plant remains fruitless, thereby failing its reason for existing.
I recently came across the following quote in Andrew Murray’s Holiest of All. Regrettably it perfectly describes influences in my life until recent months, and sadly, I suspect, the experience isn’t mine alone, illustrating the effects of trying to grow a crop mingled with weeds.
The power of the world, the spirit of its literature, the temptation of business and pleasure – all of these unite to make up a religion in which it is sought to combine a comfortable hope for the future with the least possible amount of sacrifice in the present.
The conditions in our lives that make us open (or closed) to God’s word depend on us.
We can resist, neglect or compromise His word and get a fruitless outcome. Or we can make sure we are receptive to it.
The following instruction from God through the prophet Jeremiah seems appropriate – a command that if heeded would prevent the problems mentioned in Jesus’ parable of the sower, and would ensure a healthy harvest with no loss of seed.
“Break up your unploughed ground and do not sow among thorns”
In other words, preparation for, and commitment to, receiving God’s word is helpful.
Don’t sow the Word into a field of rigidity or distraction.
Be assured, that if the necessary attention is not paid – the birds will swoop in, the viability of the sprouting word will be compromised, or the eventual growth will seem impressive, but fruitless.