“[Jesus said]: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 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, but when the sun rose they were scorched. Since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear…’
“’Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’” Matthew 13:3-9,18-23
It’s easy to skim this parable and blame the soil for lack of fruitfulness. After all, it’s impossible to grow anything worthwhile in lousy ground. ‘I didn’t choose my upbringing.’ ‘I can’t help my circumstances.’ ‘You don’t know how difficult my life is.’ ‘I’m pressed and have no time.’
But step back and see the fingers of grace all over the story. The word is sown by a generous, benevolent, equal-opportunity Sower. He doesn’t determine the soils, only the giving out of the potent Word, which He scatters abroad. So if we have ears to hear, we will pay attention to the condition of our soil to receive and nurture what He bountifully offers. Tilling is our responsibility.
We can take care to make our path rich and fertile by regularly breaking up what has become stale, hard, and worn. We would do well to yield to the Spirit’s softening of a stubborn will, His conviction and removal of unyielding pet sins. And beware thorns of frenetic busyness, an incessant crush of media, whining, and ‘stuff.’ They tangle, hinder, and eventually choke out the Word’s effectiveness.
What am I blaming for my refusal to obey? What neglect has made my soil dry and hard, and what new habits can I implement to receive fresh insights and renewal from the Lord? Of what stones of resentment, hatred, or apathy need I repent, so roots of truth and mercy can go deep and take hold? How will I clear my private world to welcome the living and active Word of God and allow it to transform and flourish? How am I actively multiplying spiritual fruit? (Isaiah 30:15; Hebrews 4:12)