I recently sat in church on a Sunday morning, listening to a sermon on a very well known parable—The Parable of the Sower. As usual, our pastor brought some rich insight into the parable. Suddenly, my mind made a connection to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Although today we extend the meaning of Thanksgiving to be a time of thankfulness for all of the blessings in our lives, originally it was strictly a time to be grateful for an abundant harvest. The Parable of the Sower is about whether or not the seed of the Word of God that is planted brings forth a crop of established believers—a spiritual harvest.
This parable, found in Matthew 13:1-23, speaks of four categories of the possibility of seed taking root and producing a good crop. As the “farmer” in this parable scattered seed, it fell on four different types of ground. First of all, some of the seed fell on the path, wherein some birds came along and ate the seed. Secondly, some of the seed fell on rocky soil, where there was too much rock and not a lot of soil. Although the seeds sprouted quickly, the hot sun caused the sprouting plants to wither in a short time. Because there wasn’t much soil, the plants failed to develop healthy roots. Thirdly, some of the seed fell where thorns had begun to grow. Soon the thorns grew up and took over. Lastly, some of the seed fell on productive soil. The crop that resulted was thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was planted.
As our pastor pointed out, we are blessed that the disciples asked Jesus what this parable meant. For many of Jesus’ parables, we are left to decipher the meaning on our own. We can ponder what the elements in the parable appear to stand for in other symbolic Scripture passages, and of course we can ask the help of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised would “teach us all things” (John 14:26). Sometimes the “experts” don’t agree on the meaning of the unexplained parables.
WHAT DID JESUS SAY THIS PARABLE IS ALL ABOUT?
Jesus willingly explained to His disciples, who had opened their hearts to believe and follow Him, the meaning of this parable. He told them that the seed symbolizes the message about the Kingdom of God. You might say it is a message of “salvation”—the way to eternal life. Jesus went on to unfold the meaning of each category of scattered seeds.
The first category of seed, which fell on the path and was soon eaten by birds, is symbolic of those who don’t understand the message. Satan comes and snatches away the message delivered to their hearts. A path is ground that is hardened by the feet that have trodden upon it. It has probably never been plowed. Our pastor pointed out that perhaps we need to prepare the “soil” of hearts by more teaching before giving a message of salvation, so that it may be better understood. That seems to make sense to me.
Jesus then clarified that the seed that fell on rocky soil represents those who do receive the message, and they receive it with joy. However, since they fail to develop a healthy root system, they quickly fall away. They cannot withstand the “heat” of persecution and trouble.
Next Jesus decoded the third scenario of scattered seed, wherein the thorns and thistles took over and choked out the growth of the new seed. This depicts those for whom the message of the Kingdom of God is overtaken by the issues of life and the desire for wealth. Perhaps these believers thrive for a while until, little by little, the concerns of life grow more and more predominant in their lives and finally overcome the message of the Kingdom of God.
The fourth scenario Jesus described is the seed that fell on good soil and reproduced thirty, sixty, or a hundred times. This stands for those who hear the Word of God and understand it. They reproduce other believers thirty, sixty, or a hundred times. This is the only one out of the four scenarios that had a positive, lasting response to the message of the Kingdom of God.
WHAT SHOULD WE TAKE AWAY FROM THIS PARABLE?
This parable gives us cause for reflection. It should lead us to consider just what kind of “soil” we have, personally. The soil represents the condition of my heart when the seed of the Word of God was dropped on it.
First I should ask, “Is my heart hardened, like the soil on the path, so that, when the Word of God was dropped on it, I didn’t take time to think deeply about it and try to understand it?” Having not really understood it, did Satan steal the Word of God deposited on my heart, so that it was impossible for the Word to have any effect on me?
Second I should ask, “Did I gladly receive the Word of God and accept the gift of salvation, but fail to go deeper to establish healthy growth?” Did I fail to recognize the importance of continuing to study the Bible and of praying and spending time with other believers so that, when ridicule and mistreatment by unbelievers or other problems came my way, I quickly just gave up my faith?
Next I should ask, “Did I receive the gift of salvation, but later allow the cares of life and a desire for wealth to gradually crowd out my relationship with God?” This is probably a big one in America today. There are so many distractions. We might want to do whatever it takes to have a nice house and a nice car. We might spend time on computer games, watching TV shows, going to movies, planning vacations, using Facebook or Instagram, watching sports, playing sports, shopping, cooking gourmet meals, and on and on and on. None of these things are bad in themselves. It’s only when they become more important than our relationship with God and we allow them to crowd out our relationship with Him that they become dangerous.
The fourth category is the one we should hope to be in. We should ask, “Did I receive God’s offer of forgiveness through believing in Christ’s sacrifice for my sin and then take time to study and understand the Bible and put it into practice? Have I been faithful, so that my mature faith has helped me to plant seeds of the Word of God in the lives of others?
LOOKING FOR AN ABUNDANT SPIRITUAL HARVEST
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to be thankful for an abundant harvest of food, which is the outcome of the successful planting of seeds. As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s contemplate a successful spiritual harvest as a result of nurturing the scattered seeds of the Word of God.
There is an old hymn that many churches used to sing entitled “Bringing in the Sheaves.” Maybe it’s familiar to you. A man named Knowles Shaw wrote the lyrics, based upon Psalm 126:6. His time on earth was from 1834 to 1878. You can click on the video below to hear a lively rendition of the hymn.