It happened again this year. The scorching summer heat effectively killed all the grass in my yard, leaving me to mow the remaining weeds. Regardless of how much I pay for grass seed, or what fertilizer I use, the lush green lawn I start out with in the spring, ends up as a patch of weeds and clover with very little grass by mid August. The problem isn’t the twenty-plus days of over-90 degree-heat, or the near-drought level of rainfall. The problem is the soil.
Jesus told a parable about a man sowing seed, and how the seed fell in four different types of soil: hard soil by the roadside, shallow, rocky soil, weed-contaminated soil, and good, fertile soil. Although it is known as the parable of the sower, in reality, it is a parable about soil. The soil represents the human heart, the place where God’s Word is sown daily. The yield of the crop is directly related to the condition of the soil. (Mark 4:1-20)
Parables are literary word pictures. They relate profound truths through common objects or stories. The focus of this parable is the condition of the soil where God’s Word falls. Some hearts, like the soil by the roadside, are hardened and unreceptive. When our hearts are hardened, Word of God doesn’t penetrate, and is swept away before it has a chance to produce fruit.
When our hearts are like the shallow, rocky soil, they may appear to produce good fruit, but the lack of strong roots makes them vulnerable to the blistering heat of persecution, and to the raging winds of tribulation, and the fruit does not last.
The most troublesome soil is the soil contaminated with weeds. You can’t see the weeds, but they are present. And, just like the weeds in my front yard, they don’t show up until it’s too late to stop them. According to this parable, they choke out what the seeds produce, and render the soil sterile and useless.
Then, there is the good soil. In the good soil, all things that are of God grow and flourish, because they are grounded in the Word of God, and fed daily by the Holy Spirit. Good soil is to be cherished.
This parable does not draw a line between unbelievers and believers. Actually, anyone of us could have one or more of these bad-soil conditions in our hearts at the same time. A lack of faith can make our heart hard just as it did the first followers of Jesus. (Mark 6:52 & 8:17). A lack of depth in our walk with God can make our hearts fickle and flighty, and our temporary joy turns to disappointing failure at the first sight of trouble or opposition. There may be a lot of emotion, but little depth. And emotion alone cannot withstand the storms of life.
While a hardened heart, like soil by the roadside, is difficult to penetrate, and rocky soil is difficult to recognize, weed-contaminated soil is the most difficult to deal with. As Jesus described it, this soil is filled with the deception of riches, our love and desire for things for things, and the worries of life. (Mark 4:19) These “weeds” choke out God’s Word and render our lives sterile. Jesus had harsh words for fruitless branches. He said, “A branch that does not bear fruit is taken away . . . cut off and thrown into the fire.” (John 15:1-11)
It is only in the good soil that we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But, good soil doesn’t come easily. Do you ever wonder why we don’t see more fruitfulness in our churches? Could it be the condition of the soil . . . our hearts? Are our hearts are hardened, our commitments shallow, and our lives are full of weeds that choke out God’s Word? Bad soil can show up anywhere, at anytime! So, how’s the soil where you and I live today?
If our soil is bad, what we do about it? Here are a couple of remedies from God’s word:
- For hard soil, God says, “Break up your fallow ground . . .” (Jeremiah 4:3)
- For shallow soil, the Psalmist cried, “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . .” (Psalms 139:23)
- For contaminated soil, King David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart O God . . .” (Psalms 51:10)
- But when there is good soil, we can “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty or even a hundred fold.” (Mark 4:20)
The condition of our heart (soil) is God’s biggest concern, and changing our heart is His greatest joy!