This is the 1st post of 3 on the Parable of the Sower
I received my college degree in Horticulture… a very “useful” degree for pastoral ministry because I understand Jesus’ agriculture parables. I took a class called “Soil Science” where we learned that the quality of the soil determines the quality of the crop. Good soil = good crop. Bad soil = bad crop. Pretty simple. Jesus’ point in the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-20 is the same. If the soil of heart is receptive, we bear much fruit. If the soil of our heart is not receptive, we bear no fruit. Here’s what Jesus has to say about the four soils of the heart and their responsiveness to the seed of the gospel.
Soil #1: Indifferent Spirituality. I would call this soil “indifferent spirituality” because it is indifferent or even hostile to the things of Jesus. The Pharisees in the Gospel of Mark would fall into this category because they are indifferent and even hostile towards the word and gospel Jesus shares. And because they’re hearts are hardened, just like the soil of the pathway, the seed of the gospel finds no place to root. In our world atheism and agnosticism are part of an indifferent spirituality. Atheism is completely indifferent and even hostile towards anything spiritual, especially the gospel. And agnosticism, while appearing as a search for truth, is ultimately indifferent to clarifying anything about God.
Soil #2: Easy Spirituality. This is the heart that wants following Jesus to be easy. This is the soil of the human heart that cannot handle rejection, persecution, and suffering. When the going gets tough, which it invariably does in following Jesus, the person of “easy spirituality” leaves Jesus and discipleship behind because they won’t count the cost of discipleship. They want Jesus’ cross to pay for their sin, but they won’t want to pick up their own.
Soil #3: Balanced Spirituality. This is the soil of the human heart that wants life to go on as normal but adds a little Jesus to the mix. We want a life in “balance.” Here’s my relationships… here’s my job… here’s my free-time… here’s my physical health… and here’s my spiritual health and I’ll fit Jesus into that category. The problem with that is that “balance” is not a biblical concept because in following Jesus, our whole lives are to be under the Lordship of Jesus. He gets it all. And Jesus knows that the in a “balanced heart,” the concerns of all the other categories overcome and overwhelm the small part we’ve put Jesus into. The cares of the world, the delight and deceitfulness of riches and wealth, and the desire for other things choke out Jesus and distract us from truly following Him.
Soil #4: Kingdom Spirituality. Finally, we get to the good soil… the soil of the human heart that longs for Jesus and His kingdom… the human heart that is all about kingdom spirituality. This kind of heart receives and welcomes Jesus’ word immediately, so it’s not snatched away by Satan. This kind of heart receives and welcomes Jesus’ word deeply, so it doesn’t wither. This kind of heart receives and welcomes Jesus’ word exclusively, so it’s not chocked out and distracted by all of the other things in life and the world. Remember, the quality of the soil determines the quality of the harvest. It’s interesting that when Jesus says that they bear fruit thirty, sixty, and one hundred fold that the average harvest for grain crops was about ten fold. For each seed planted in good soil, you’d harvest about 10 grain seeds. So when Jesus’ word is planted deeply within a heart that desires Jesus and His kingdom above all else, the fruit that is born is supernatural and miraculous.
So where is the soil of your heart these days? Where would you honestly put yourself in these four soils? And what do you need to do to prepare your heart to receive Jesus’ word so that it can bear His gospel and kingdom fruit in and through your life?