In the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, he recounts Jesus’s telling of one of his stories that has come to be known as the Parable of the Sower or the Parable of the Soils, among other things:
I don’t know about you, but over the years, I have really struggled with some of Jesus’s parables, and this one is no exception. Evidently, I’m not alone, since in verse 10, Jesus’s disciples asked Him to explain it, which He did.
God is the One who sows the seeds, which is His word. We are the soil, the places where the seeds land. And, of course, Satan opposes allowing these seeds to take root in our hearts and mind, so he does everything he can to keep that from happening. How does he do this? One of his many strategies is to corrupt us in a number of ways, turning us into types of soil that do not allow God’s word to take root and transform us.
The first kind of soil is the path. It is packed and hard, keeping the seeds from even entering it. These are the people who are completely unreceptive to God. They have it all figured out. They think they are smarter than people like you and me, since we believe all of this (supposedly) outdated superstition called Christianity. I don’t mean to sound judgmental here–I was like this at one time myself, when I accepted the lies of the modern world and the evil one as truth. The only chance for people like this to recognize and accept the actual truth is for God to take a pick ax to their hearts, chipping away at it to soften it up and turn it into better soil. Thankfully, that’s what He did to me and for me.
People who are this kind of soil start off OK. They accept God’s words with joy in their hearts. However, it only remains in their hearts. It is only an emotional experience for them. This means that when something bad happens to them or someone they love, their faith falters.
Why is this? In my experience, cultivating a deep personal relationship with Jesus needs to be both an emotional experience and and intellectual one. Emotion and feelings may be what allows the seeds’ initial roots to take hold, but then thinking through your faith is what will enable them to run deeply into and throughout your life.
Life can be hard. Sometimes people are wicked. Even good people. And sometimes disasters strike. Health fails. It’s hard to understand why God allows these things to happen. Sometimes, it’s hard to even understand where God is when they happen.
When (not if) terrible things happen, if your faith has not gone deeper than the superficial emotional level, it can be rocked by those hard questions–God, why? God, where are you?
That’s the rocky ground, and that’s why Satan uses this tactic–so you have no answers to those hard questions.
Thorny Plants–Soil That’s Already Occupied
For this soil, everything might be great if not for the temptations of this world. The need for more. More wealth. More power. More sex. More stuff.
Most of these things might not be bad in the right context. God can use them, working through us, to advance His Kingdom. But one of the things Satan is extremely skilled at is tarnishing good things–spoiling them, making them bad. He knows that God commanded us not to put anything before Him in our lives, and the evil one also knows our natural tendency to do just that. So he helps us along down that path.
The Good Soil
We are good soil when we embrace God’s word, when we let it filter down into the depth of our being, both emotionally and intellectually. Is that where you are? If not, is it where you want to be?
The Gospel, the Really Good News
Here’s the thing: I don’t think we are ever completely one kind of soil, once and for all. I am trying to be good soil, but I have to admit that, sadly, it’s all too easy for me to slip into one of the other soil types.
But the really good news is that as soon as I recognize that I have slipped, I can ask God for forgiveness. I can reach out my hand and ask for His help. And He will help me!
He’ll do the same for you, too. He wants us to be good soil, so He will patiently help us get there. I can’t think of any news that’s better than that! Can you?