Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4.7-8
Sunday we celebrated the greatness of God in the greatness of His creation. Having a service outside is a good reminder to us of God’s immensity. Another reminder came in the sermon: Parable of the Sower. I have heard this parable many times, but too many times, the actual point that Jesus is making gets obscured by our desire to apply the text. In the parable we have four types of soil, each one receiving the same seed — the Word of God. Their response to this seed is based on the condition of the heart — soil — that it touches:
PATH | gets snatched up by SatanROCKS | does not grow deep roots and is easily led astrayWEEDS | is overcome by alternatives — beliefs, desires, idolsGOOD SOIL | receives it with joy and grows
The application that often comes from this is: be good soil. Work hard to avoid Satan; do not let your heart be hardened; uproot the weeds before they can destroy your faith. The tricky part of this is: none of these are unbiblical ideas. We are called to resist the devil. We are called to pursue God in a way that illuminates our joy and ‘softens out hearts.’ We are instructed to cleanse our hands, working against the sin in our life. But this isn’t the point of the parable.
Parables are veiled lessons meant to reveal truth about the Kingdom to those who believe. In this parable, Jesus is giving us a description of why some people believe and others don’t; He is helping us to see what is happening behind what we see. He is explaining why some people seem to love Jesus and then all of a sudden give up. He is letting us know why it always feels like we are working against an enemy. He makes it clear that it is the condition of the soil, not the seed that produces the result. We are reminded that our role as proclaimers of the gospel is to be humble. The section is James 4 quoted above ends this way:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (10)
The Parable of the Sower is not about how to prepare yourself or others to hear the gospel; it is about trusting in the Lord who changes hearts. It is about believing that God will do what He has promised, even when it looks like things aren’t working. It helps us to be humble, realizing that our faith comes from God preparing us to receive Him. It should motivate us to evangelize, recognizing that we have everything that we need to sow the world with the truth of the gospel. It brings a profound sense of thankfulness, realizing that we are the recipients of a goodness that we in no way deserve.