When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’ “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. (Luke 8:4-15)
Like many of you, I have heard this parable more times than I can count. Yet, I worry that even with Jesus’ explanation, I am still looking and not perceiving, listening and not understanding. In particular, I worry that I fall into the trap of the Pharisee; reading God’s word, assuming the blessing is mine, the condemnation…someone else’s. Reading about the different types of soil and its effect on the lives of people is like flipping through an old high school year book. A face from the past flashes before my eyes, “Yup, that is them,” I say to myself. But I never see my face until the end. Obviously I am in the good soil…aren’t I? I am far enough along that I am confident I am not the seed that landed on the path, but what about the other two?
The seed on the rock is faith without roots or depth. It is an uninvestigated faith; believing without really knowing why. Most of our convictions we have for a reason. We don’t just wake up in the morning and throw a dart at a wall to decide our beliefs and values. Dare to ask why. And if you don’t know, find out! 1Peter 3:14-17 reminds us:
But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.
You can’t defend what you don’t know. When challenged, a shallow foundation will fail. Similarly, you can’t have a good conscience if your defense of the truth isn’t itself based off truth. In legal terms, your defense is perjury. Ultimately, we can be found to be a fraud and the defense collapses. Instead, root yourself in the truth so you may not be swayed by whatever guile the enemy throws your way.
“As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” This one worries me. No matter where we are, the cares of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for comfort, never departs. It may grow even stronger as we age! In other words, this war with the thorns is a battle we will fight for the entirety of our life. And we may not know how we did until we are before Christ giving an account. My suggestion is to ask God in prayer to search our motivations and agree with His assessment of our heart. Better to find out early that the thorns are choking us so we may take some defensive measures. The alternative is to go on our merry way, assuming all is well. Meanwhile, we are slowly dying in our faith, only to come up short in the end. May we be counted among the understanding and perceiving.