Parable of the Sower: What kind of soil are you?

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A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Luke 8:5-8 (read v. 4-15)

From Jesus’ parable of the sower, we learn that not all who hear the Word of God with their ears rightly receive it in faith. In fact, some who initially hear it and come to faith in Jesus fall away again; but, by the grace of God, some of the seed of God’s Word falls on good ground — prepared by the Lord — and grows and produces faith and its fruits.

As we consider this parable, we remember that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63; cf. Heb. 4:12).

We remember that the Gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17).

And consider the words of the LORD in Isaiah 55:10-11: “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

As we read the parable of the sower and its explanation, we are quick to identify people we know with the poor kinds of soil and ourselves with the good ground. But, when we do this, we miss the warning and comfort of this parable for ourselves.

This parable certainly warns against being like one of the three poor kinds of soil. We may think of ourselves as the good soil, but how often do we not also fit the descriptions of the poor ground?

Many times we are like the hard ground. The Word of God is sown upon us, but it doesn’t sink in and produce fruit in our lives because we have either been uninterested or inattentive. Then the Word is snatched away by the devil.

Often we are also like the rocky soil. Though God’s Word begins to grow and produce faith in us, in times of trouble, affliction or persecution, we shrink back from a bold and faithful confession of the truths of God’s Word because we have not let that Word sink its roots deep into our lives. When trouble comes and our faith is put to the test, we turn away in doubt and unbelief.

And how often, like the thorny ground, we let the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things in this life keep us from faithfully hearing and learning God’s Word! These things choke out the Word and keep us from living our lives by faith in Christ Jesus and producing the fruits of faith — the works God would have us do as His redeemed children (cf. Eph. 2:8-10; John 15:1-8).

When we are good soil, we can take no credit. We must say with Jesus that it is a blessing of the Lord when the Word sinks in, grows and produces fruit in our lives (Matt. 13:16).

It is the Lord who cultivates the soil of our hearts, breaking up the hard ground, removing the rocks and pulling out the weeds, that the Gospel of forgiveness of sins and life eternal for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross might be heard and believed by us and produce fruit in our lives.

“Almighty God, Thy Word is cast like seed into the ground; now let the dew of heaven descend and righteous fruits abound. Amen.” The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #49, Verse 1

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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