So far, so good. When I look at the beautiful stand of grass I now have in my yard, I am amazed at the difference a year of TLC has made. Last year about this time, the grass appeared to be nice and green. A closer look revealed a lot of weeds and very little healthy grass. In the past, it did not matter how much grass seed or fertilizer I used, the hot scorching heat of the summer sun killed off all the grass leaving me the unpleasant task of mowing weeds the remaining days of summer and fall.
The difference this year is the attention I have given to the condition of the soil. With the help of a neighbor who knows about lawn care and the importance of giving year-round attention to the soil conditions, my yard looks better than it ever has.
My experience with growing grass in my yard reminded me of a parable Jesus told about a man sowing seed and how the seed fell in four different types of soil: hard soil by the roadside, shallow soil filled with rocks, soil contaminated with weeds, and the good soil. Although it is known as the parable of the sower, in reality, it is a parable about the soil. The soil represents the human heart, the place where God’s word is sown almost daily. The yield of the crop from that seed is directly related to the condition of the soil. (Mark 4:1-20)
Parables are literary word pictures. They relate a profound truth through common objects or stories. The focus of this parable is on the condition of the soil where God’s word falls. Some hearts are hardened and unreceptive. In this case the seed cannot penetrate, and is taken away before it has a chance to produce fruit. In other hearts a shallowness or lack of depth gives the impression of producing good fruit, but it doesn’t last. The lack of strong roots make it vulnerable to the blistering heat of persecution and the raging winds of tribulation. The most troublesome soil is the soil contaminated with weeds. You can’t see them, 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.
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. 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 hardened hearts, like soil by the roadside is difficult to penetrate, and rocky soil is difficult to recognize, soil contaminated with weeds 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)
Do you ever wonder why we don’t see more fruitfulness in our churches? Could it be the condition of the soil . . . our hearts? Perhaps our hearts are hardened, our commitment is shallow and superficial, or 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 do 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)
The condition of our heart (soil) is God’s greatest concern, and changing our heart is His greatest joy!