So as I wrapped up my session talking about birthing spiritual grandchildren (see the previous posts on part 1 and part 2), we moved to Matthew 13. We read verses 1-9:
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Jesus seems to have a clear priority for fruitfulness, but let’s make sure that we have an understanding of what he is talking about here. The disciples asked him to explain the parable, so later, Jesus provided some definitions:
The farmer: Someone who is sharing the message of the Kingdom of God.
The seed: The message about the Kingdom.
The four different types of soil: The different ways that people might receive the message.
As I read this, I see that there is actually only one type of soil where the message isn’t received or not believed. That is the first type of soil, and because the message isn’t received, Satan takes it away.
In the second and third types of soil, I see that these people do believe. They have accepted Christ, but they have difficulties in continuing to grow and be fruitful.
For the second type of person, they are experiencing trouble because of their new faith. They are afraid of what people are thinking of them, or they don’t believe that this new faith is actually worth the persecution that they are receiving from others. The root of their newly planted faith doesn’t go deep into the ground, so despite initially believing, they fall away.
The third type of person is similar, but it is because they are prioritizing the things of the world, whether because they think they don’t have enough money and spend their lives trying to make more, or they have enough that they do everything they can to protect what they have. In either case, they have believed, but their priorities are connected to the kingdom of the world, not to the Kingdom of God, so those misaligned priorities crowd out their ability to be fruitful.
The fourth soil person is someone who both receives the seed and believes, but then goes on to produce a harvest. In the same way that I remember farmers where I grew up in Indiana planting corn, beans, or other kinds of crops, I know that they put the seeds into the ground in the spring with the intent to receive back a great harvest in the fall, and that is what this type of person will do. By planting that seed within them, the farmer sees a great harvest come through the planting of this one seed.
So in my talk, I simply asked the question: Should this parable have any bearing on how we think about our ministry work? If our time is limited – and it is! – how should we be spending our time?
Clearly, we should be like the farmer, spreading the seed. I don’t see that the farmer is trying to take his time to figure out what type of soil the person is in advance. In fact, he doesn’t seem to care very much. Instead, he is just spreading the seed.
But once we can see which type of soil the seed has been sown into, should there be a priority in our ministry time and work on those who are the good soil?
For example, if I were to tell you that you could invest one dollar in a company, and at the end of one year, you would receive one dollar in return, would you do it? Of course not.
But if you could invest your one dollar and make $100, my guess is that you would invest that money quickly.
So I believe that this is what Jesus is saying. Sow the seed. Find the good soil. See and help this new disciple become fruitful.