In Luke 8:4 Jesus shares the parable of the sower. Jesus tells of how a farmer spreads seed. Some falls on beside the road and is trampled or stolen by birds. Some falls on rocky soil and grows quickly, but withers quickly because it has no root. Some falls in the soil where there are thorns and grows well until a certain point and then it is choked out. Other seed fell on good soil and grew and produced much fruit.
Jesus later explains this to the disciples. He says that the sower is God and the seed is the word of God. Those on the side of the road are those who have heard the word but devil comes and steals it from their heart so that they can’t be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who receive the word with joy, but then, because they have no root, when tempted fall away. Those who are among the thorns are those who receive the word and grow but are choked out by the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life and don’t produce fruit. The final group are those who receive the word with an honest and good heart, hold fast and produce much fruit through perseverance.
This is a tough parable for a lot of reasons. First, it appears that only 25% of people end up producing fruit. Although to be fair, it doesn’t say anything about percentages. Heck 90% of the seed could have fallen on any one of the soils. But as someone who has tried to spread the word to people for over two decades, it sure does seem like 25% of people being the good soil seems about right.
This all raises several questions. First, when the word is spread, how do you know which soil those who receive it are? How long until you know? Second, how do you know what these different soils look like? Third, which soil are you and how do you know? Fourth, is there anything we can do to change the condition of the soil, our own or anyone else’s? Are we just stuck in the soil we are?
For today I want to look at the first question. I think most of the time we assume we know very quickly which soil a person is. I’ve spent a lot of time working to spread the word to adolescents. I used to think that if they got it and responded that they were probably the good soil. Then as I got older I thought if they did certain things within the first year or two they were good. For example if they stayed involved, went to church, plugged into a small group. But at nearly 48 years old, I’ve started to realize this is a much longer game and much more complicated.
The first soil is pretty obvious, or at least seemingly so. If they reject the word, that’s a decent sign. But even then I’ve seen people who I thought didn’t “get it” years later produce fruit.
The next three soils though, start out the exact same. They all receive the word. They look pretty much the same from the outside. But the truth is, they haven’t been tested yet. You would think the second soil, those who fall to temptation, would happen quickly. And relatively that might be true. But it could be years before a temptation comes that takes them out. Also it’s important to note that temptation could come in a lot of different forms.
The third group, those choked out by the worries, riches and pleasures of the world, can take a long, long time.
Here is where I’ve landed on this thought when it comes to judgement of the soil, my own or others.
You can get some idea after a few years. But ultimately it will be at the end of our life when we know. Did they/we persevere? When tested did they/we stay? Do they/we get choked out? Was there fruit? We’ll take a closer look next time at what each soil looks like.