For today’s Wednesday Word we’re looking at the Parable of the Sower, which is one of Jesus’ most well known parables… enjoy!
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, 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 brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
1. The “word of the Kingdom”
In 13:19 Jesus explains that the “seed” which the sower is sowing is the “word of the kingdom.” So what does that mean? What is the word of the kingdom? Most likely this is a reference to the proclamation that Matthew records at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near” (Mt. 4:17). In other words, God’s reign, his power, his justice and his redeeming love (that which the faithful in Israel have been waiting for) are being newly manifested in the world in powerful ways and God’s kingship over the earth is on its way to being fully realized The point is, what Jesus is preaching is not about how to be a good person or how to go to heaven when you die or about having the right interior faith and beliefs. Jesus is preaching about what God was doing in the world right at that moment.
Because Jesus was preaching about God’s activity in the world, he wasn’t just looking for people to believe him. Of course belief was necessary, but it wasn’t sufficient. Jesus was looking for people who would both believe his word and then put it to work. Jesus expected that people who really understood the word of the kingdom to participate in the work of the kingdom. Note that nobody is commended in this parable for simply believing or accepting the word, just as no soil is commended for simply receiving the seed. If the seed doesn’t grow and bear fruit then the project fails!
3. Weed Control
It is my belief that the vast majority of American Christians fall into the third category in Jesus’ parable: the seeds that fell among thorns. The hard reality is that given the amount of self-professing Christians in our nation we have an embarrassingly small amount of kingdom fruit. It is well documented that our lifestyles are only marginally different than our non-Christian neighbors, and the declining attendance and membership in churches bears witness to this “fruit problem.” The purpose of this blog entry however is not to criticize, but to offer a very brief analysis of one of our many thorns.
While materialism is (I believe) the greatest threat to the work of the kingdom in our culture, I have found that it is not the obstacle that holds back many sincere Christians from bearing fruit. I believe busyness ("the cares of the world") is the thorn-bush that keeps the majority of us from bearing fruit. I never had to convince anyone in the church that seeking money before God was a sin. But when it came to our time, and how it was spent, there were a million justifications offered as to why there was time for other things but not for God. There were workouts, extra hours at work voluntarily taken, kids sports, music lessons, fishing, golfing, gaming, and of course tv time. None of those things are bad, but when you are telling me you can’t read scripture or pray or get to know your neighbors or serve once a month in the community then we’ve got a big problem. The truth is that there was plenty of time, but spiritual growth and mission were not priorities.
Time is something all of us, myself included, would do well to track closely. In fact, we should track it closer than our money, as it is the most valuable thing apart from God’s love and grace that we possess. So here’s a challenge for you: track all your time use for one week. Or if you really want to step up, track it for a month. Just make a daily log; it doesn’t need to be complicated. Then, break down the numbers, and see how your priorities look according to the time you give them. And make sure to note how much time you spend on your phone and in front of the tv! There’s no golden number we’re looking for, and we don’t want to be legalistic, but the picture you get should tell you something about how much you are putting into growing that kingdom seed you’ve been given.