When I was growing up, I didn’t understand the parable of the sower.
It didn’t make sense to me.
If you’re a Christian, you’re probably familiar with it. Jesus tells it this way in Matthew 13:3–9:
“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. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Classic Sunday school fare, yes? Complete with a coloring book page?
Jesus then explains the meaning of the parable in Matthew 13:18–23:
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives 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. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
As a kid, this parable didn’t make sense to me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I understood the story.
I just didn’t understand the point.
Why did Jesus tell it? To share general knowledge?
“Hey! Some people will hear Christianity’s message, and it will work. Others won’t hear it. It won’t work. Have a nice day.”
Was that the point of the parable? “Oh, well, that’s the way it goes…?”
It wasn’t until I hit my mid-twenties that the parable finally made sense to me.
I’d been struggling with my own faith, struggling with my inability to absorb truth and keep God’s perspective close. Suddenly the parable of the sower crashed back into me, and I had a light bulb moment.
I control the soil.
Is that the point? Maybe not. But I think it might be.
As a kid, I took this parable to be about some people whose lives were predetermined. Rocky soil? Oh no! Weeds? Oh, well!
I also considered it to be about evangelism alone.
But lately, I’ve been considering it in more personal terms. When I walk into church on Sunday morning, I have control over the soil of my mind. And often, very deliberately, I leave those rocks there, because I’m way too lazy to do anything about them.
At the end of the day, I decide if the seed grows.