“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
The ultimate purpose of a human being is for us to glorify God by enjoying him forever. I admit it, I am a Christian Hedonist. I want to pursue and find maximum pleasure in Jesus. I don’t want anything to hinder my enjoyment of him. Pleasure is not bad, it is a good thing. Pleasure is pleasant. The issue has to do with the source of our pleasure. If we are looking for pleasure in money or sex or power, our pleasure will be limited and will ultimately be destructive of pleasure. But if we are looking to Jesus as the source of pleasure and joy, then it will only grow and become greater.
The parable of the soils can be viewed from several points of view (POV). We can look at it from the POV of the sower, or the POV of the soil, or the POV of results. The parable was introduced by Jesus as being about the Kingdom of God. So from his POV, this tells us something about the Kingdom of God. I would like to look at this today from the POV of ourselves and how we diagnose the type of soil we are.
I know that most readers of this site are Christians, people who have decided to follow Jesus. I surmise that we are not soil number one, the soil that receives the word, and immediately loses out because Satan takes away the word that was sown.
Soil number two is soil that cannot survive hard times of persecution or tribulation. Some of us may be in this category and don’t know it because, so far, in our experience of following Jesus, we have not experienced persecution or tribulation. If we’ve not yet had to pay the price to follow Jesus, we don’t know if we are type 2 or not. Type 2 is not a genuine Christian. Jesus has made it clear in the word that he will protect his chosen all the way (Romans 8:39, Philippians 4:6).
Soil number three is the probable soil type for many of us in America, so I want to take a close look at it. Soil types one and two do not produce genuine Christians. Types three and four are genuine believers, but one is productive, and the other is not. Type three soil is caught up with the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life.
“This life” is the key to understanding the problem of soil type three. Type three soil has extreme care for the things of “this life.” Now, breaking it down further, it is precisely the cares, riches, and pleasures” of this life that are the problem.
Cares can refer to things that happen in our lives that are, to some degree, out of our control. Job loss and its accompanying economic difficulty can cause a man extreme emotional distress because he is not being able to fulfill his duty to his family of providing for them. The anguish of this difficulty can quickly become a “care” about this life that can choke out productivity. Significant illness of a family member and the need to give them care twenty-four hours a day is an all-consuming situation and can choke spiritual productivity.
Paul gives a strong exhortation to the wealthy and those who want to be rich.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.1 Timothy 6:9-10
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.1 Timothy 6:17-19
Those who “want to be rich” have to potential of wandering away from the faith and piercing themselves with many spasms of pain and mental anguish. Wanting riches in this life can be a costly desire. It can result in ruin and destruction.
Those who are ”rich in this present age” are exhorted to not focus on their wealth, but instead focus on using their wealth to be rich in good works. In other words, use wealth to share the love of God with those in need. When doing so, the wealthy actually are investing in the Kingdom of God and will receive the ROI (Return on Investment) in the future of the Kingdom of God and will experience the abundant life that Jesus promised to those who follow him.
Riches are neutral. Human hearts determine the results of wanting or having wealth. If Jesus is our ultimate treasure and rules our hearts and conduct, then riches are not a problem, but a blessing.
Pleasure, as I said in the beginning, is not bad. In fact, it is a blessing from God. The issue is the source of pleasure. If we are committed to the pleasures of this life, then we will choke out the word of God in our lives and keep ourselves from being productive soil.
Soil type four, the soil producing thirty, sixty, and one hundredfold is soil that hears the word of God, accepts it, and produces fruit. When compared to the other soil types, we can infer that this soil that has the quality that will allow the seed to grow deep roots; that is, he “accepts it.” Persecution or tribulation does not cause them to fall away. For this soil, Jesus is the ultimate treasure and joy. Nothing is more important and holds more affection than Jesus. Cares, riches, and pleasures in this life do not rule this person’s life. That doesn’t mean they have no cares, concerns about riches, or enjoyment of human pleasures. It means that Jesus overrides them all, and they all are subject to the Lordship of Jesus and the joy he brings. The pursuit of the type four soil person is pleasure in fellowship with the Triune God.
So, which soil do you identify with? I know that many of us in America will if we are honest with ourselves, have to admit we are soil type three. We are caught up with the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. We are caught in the bramble bush if life and fruit are being choked. That doesn’t mean we aren’t genuine believers. It does mean we can grow into fruitful soil type four. It will require repentance and some time of following Jesus out of the bramble bushes of this life.
What is the fruit referred to in this parable? I believe there are two types of fruit. One is the fruit of the Spirit, the character traits of Jesus that grow in us when we follow Jesus. The other is new believers who come to Jesus as a result of our obeying the Great Commandment and the Great Commission: Love God, love your neighbor and make disciples.
What kind of soil am I? If I am caught up in the bramble bushes of this life, I need to fall in love with Jesus all over again. He will lead me out of the bramble bushes into fruitful productivity if I follow him.