All are dirt
Matthew 13:3–9 (ESV)
And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
There is no fundamental difference in the composition of the four soils. They are all dirt. The parable doesn’t make the point that seed fell on concrete, and then on steel, a mountain side and then soil. In each case, the seed fell on soil. The problem, was the condition of each soil. The soil on the path has all the inherent properties of the other soils – but it’s condition was that it was hard. It would not receive the seed easily.
Many a person, even in the Church is unfruitful because of hardness.
They receive nothing from the outside. Everything is on their terms. Their hearts and minds have been solidified into a thought process that lets no one, and no thing ever to really enter in. They do not want to be disturbed from the way they have everything figured out. They’ve got their point of view, they are unwilling to be changed. Their favorite songs are: “I’ve got to be me” and “I did it my way.” If they remain hard, if they do not hear the Word of the Lord calling to “break up the fallow ground” (Jer. 4:3 and Hosea 10:12) they will die fruitless, and lost. The hearers of Jesus’ words here should have connected them with God’s former rebukes to such hardness. But that is the nature of hardness, nothing gets through.
The rocky soil is simply shallow.
Nothing gets deeper than the skin. There is “no depth.” This person lives for the visible – the surface things of life. In truth, they never really think about anything very deeply. They flit from relationship to relationship. They change jobs often. They are constantly – and but for a micro second – absolutely enthused about whatever has caught their attention – right then. And then it is off to something else. They’ve tried everything, and been everywhere, and think they are really broad in their experience. But in truth, they know only the slightest bit about a thousand things – nothing really about anything. They’ll respond to the Gospel the same way they buy into every other new fad. But stay with Christ? Endure the hardness of staying put and persevering to actually bear fruit in Christ’s likeness? Nope. The people are too difficult, the circumstances not accommodating enough, the preacher boring, the music is the wrong style, the building is too old or too new or too bright or too dark and, and, and…
Then we come to the fatally distracted.
The thorns are the very same encumbrances which threaten us all. But for them – they take priority over everything else. God is good. Religion is fine. Christ and Christianity is great – as long as you don’t go overboard. After all, life is more than serving Christ, isn’t it? I mean, there’s a LOT of other priorities. So worship is second to sports or other involvements. Studying God’s Word is for the Bible nerds. Prayer? – I pray, sort of, when I think of it or something is really pressing. But the thought of actually arranging one’s life around the priorities of Heaven seems too extreme. They want the religion piece in place, but certainly don’t want it to dominate the landscape – just dress it up. And these too will die fruitless and lost.
Then of course there is the soil which hears and receives and endures and brings forth fruit.
So the question arises, which soil are you?
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Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.