I believe everyone is familiar with the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:3-9;18-23). Personally, I prefer to refer to it as the Parable of the Soils as it deals primarily with the four different types of grounds symbolic of the varying conditions of hearts. We will get to that in a while but first, let us clarify a very fundamental point: What were the seeds that the sower sowed?
Some say it is the good news, the message of salvation. And others say it is the Word of God. There are other variations on the theme but generally, it is agreed that the seed is what is proclaimed by the preacher. What does Jesus say? In Matt 13:19, He clearly and categorically states that it is “the word of the kingdom”. And that must always be our starting point: the kingdom of God. This “word of the kingdom” is made available to everyone; but unfortunately, not everyone responds to it in the same manner.
For the “seed on the wayside” people, Jesus says that they hear but do not understand what the kingdom is all about. Let it be said that most would understand Christian principles; it is adherence to these principles that we struggle with. But the things of the kingdom, the mysteries? Not everyone who hears, understands. In today’s context, we hear the word “kingdom” and we think it means “church”. Many simply do not understand the word of the kingdom! As such, it is quickly snatched away. The wicked one is happy for us to keep doing church as long as we do not understand the kingdom.
For the “seed on stony places” people, these are those who are excited at the revelation of the kingdom dimension. They say “yes” and “amen” on the surface but do not necessarily have a depth of conviction of the kingdom of God for they have “no root in himself”. In fairness to them, they try to implement kingdom principles but are soon opposed. Please note that Jesus warns that when anyone desires to walk in kingdom paradigms, there will be tribulations and even persecution “because of the word”. Lest we think this only refers to opposition from the outside, I challenge you to talk and walk kingdom in the church community and see how you will stick out like a sore thumb. Your desire to align with the kingdom will be subtly but promptly re-aligned back to the organisation of the church.
For the “seed among the thorns” people, these may agree notionally with the kingdom of God but are really distracted by their own kingdom and that of the world. They fail to see that kingdom living is almost always at odds with what we are accustomed to. These want to have the best of both worlds, so to speak, but fail to recognise that the kingdom of God cannot and will not co-exist with any other kingdom. To this end, the “cares of this world” choke out any desire they might have for the kingdom. The “deceitfulness of riches” will aggressively compete with the understanding of being lowly and last in the kingdom of God. Sadly, much of today’s preaching is centred on how you can achieve success and significance according to how the world defines it … with a few bible verses thrown in for good measure. It may appear Christian; but is it kingdom?
Thankfully, there is a final group of hearers and these are the “seed on good ground” people. These are those whose hearts are ready to receive the word of the kingdom. They not only hear the word but also understand it! In Mark 4:20, they hear and accept or take it into their hearts. In Luke 8:15, they hear and keep it – and that does not mean that they merely memorised it but that they obeyed and began to live the principles and paradigms of the kingdom. Fruitfulness – not busyness – was the outcome, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty”.
What was the key differentiating factor of the soils? I believe it is having a heart for the kingdom, a deep desire to see God’s kingdom, His rule and reign, manifest in their lives, on earth as it is in heaven. Not churchdom, mind you, but kingdom. How I wish I could presume that this constitutes 25% of all who hear, of all who sit in churches today, who call themselves Christians. But I fear that, like the people of God in Jesus’ day, many in the church may too have hearts that have grown dull, ears that are hard of hearing and eyes that are closed (cf Matt 13:15; Isa 6:9-10).
Think about it: If we do not possess a heart for the kingdom, how would we seek that first? And if we would not seek it, how shall we find it that we might live for it? And if we are not living for the kingdom, how would we ever be ready to die for it?
O Lord, stir our hearts in these final days. Awaken Your people to the word of Your kingdom!
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matt 13:9