The Parable of the Soils A.K.A. The Heart

Peninsula Community Church

The Parable of the Sower

January 12, 2014

Today’s text is a lengthy one but well worth the read. So, let’s read together.

Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23 – That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 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.”

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

As you read the New Testament, you will find that one of the literary tools used by Jesus to teach those around him was the parable. A parable is basically a story that is used to make a point but it is also a story that is based on some real life story or event. Often as Jesus was speaking, he would look at the surroundings around him and would use examples from everyday life to teach biblical principles. As you read the Gospels you find he used sheep, a farmer, a shepherd, a vineyard, a rich man, and so on to bring to light an understanding of some spiritual truth. You see parables were not just good stories, they were tools used by Christ to point the way to spiritual principles that would guide the believer toward a better understanding of kingdom living and kingdom life.

In the text before us today, we have one of the more popular parables used by Jesus. As noted, He uses this parable to present powerful spiritual principles. In the case of this parable, Christ provides the opportunity to enlighten understanding of the need to grow, to mature and to bear fruit as a passionate follower of Christ. The idea communicated here is that we are not to just look pretty and fill a spot on a chair on Sunday. We are to bear fruit worthy of repentance and worthy of ministering to others. The second lesson, which is just as important as the first, is that the condition of our heart will determine the level of growth and the level and volume of fruit to be produced in our lives. 

Related to this particular parable, let me make a couple of observations. First, this parable is not so much for the nonbeliever as it is for the believer, that is the one who is already a believer. This does not mean that the nonbeliever should not heed the words of this parable, but that this particular parable is fully directed to the believer. 

A second observation to be noted is that the farmer and the seed are the same. There is only one farmer and only one seed. The sower or the farmer is representative of Christ himself. The seed is representative of the word of God.

A third observation is this. while the seed is the same and the sower is the same, the soil is quite different. We find here four types of soils described. Each soil type describes a different type of heart. Each heart is exhibited in different ways and for different reasons. I would describe these hearts as the hardened/callous heart, the shallow heart, the strangled heart, and the satisfied heart. Jesus understands and he wants us to understand that the condition of our hearts will determine the level of growth that we will experience. The condition of our hearts wild determine the fruit we will have. The condition of our hearts wild determine the effect we will have on others and on life itself.

In this parable, Jesus begins with the hard soil which is that soil that has been trampled under the foot as it is on a pathway. This soil is on the path that is used for travel. The ground is so hard that the seed cannot penetrate. Because of the hardness of the soil, the seed never germinates and the roots never have the opportunity to grow. How do we interpret this? The hardened soil represents the heart that has become hardened and calloused. As a result they become hardened to the things that God wants to do in them. This heart has become closed and rejects the very truth that can bring healing. This is the heart that rejects understanding and wisdom. 

Everyone of us, I am sure, has encountered a person in our life that refuses to heed advice no matter how good or how important that advice might be. We might call this stubbornness and hardness. There is no place to allow the seed to germinate because truth is being rejected. Rather than living a fruitful life that manifests God’s love and God’s will, these hearts are lifeless and fruitless.

There are so many reasons for this phenomena. It could be the result of what Paul describes in Romans 1 where people would rather believe the lie than the truth. The problem is that they believe the lie so long that they become hardened to the truth. Because of the lie that is lived the truth has no room to grow and bear fruit. 

The second kind of soil is the soil that represents the shallow heart. This is the heart that never fully grows. They have received the word but they are every superficial in the way they live and the way they act. The word does not impact them or their life. Because they live a superficial life, they are easily effected by the trials and the persecutions of life. The problem is that the who lives superficially is one who is more easily led by one’s circumstances rather than by faith. They are led more than by the events of their life that negatively effect them rather than they are by the truth of God’s word that brings stability and direction. Because they have shallow hearts, they are neutralized by difficulty and by persecution which negates any possible opportunity for growth.

The third kind of soil represents the strangled heart. This heart has the word implanted but those who have this heart are caught off guard by the issues of life. They are distracted by the process of gathering wealth rather than enjoying the wealth they already have. They are more concerned about what people think of them than they are about growing in Christ. When things are good they believe they do not need Christ. They move from trusting God to trusting themselves solely as their provider. This is the kind of person that worries about everything which distracts them from God’s word and understanding.

The fourth soil is the soil that is good soil. The good soil is ground that is ready to receive the seed. As the sower sows the seed, the seed finds ready soil which aids in the germination process and is therefore ready to bring forth fruit. Look at what Jesus says As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Notice that the one who has good soil, not only hears the word but understands. It is critical that we see that Jesus begins and end the parable with the idea that we must understand the word. Our heart and our understanding of the word impacts our ability to bear fruit. It is not enough to know the word but we must also understand the principles that are provided and we must make application of those principles into our life. Understanding must result in the proper application of the word into our lives.

The result of understanding is that the believer will bear fruit in multiple quantities. As we look at this we must understand that God’s goal for us is that we would bear fruit in our life. In fact, he desires that we bear much fruit. We are to be fruitful. This is not one dimensional fruit bearing but is multidimensional in that every area of our life should be bearing fruit. Let me just use one example. Let’s use one example our finances. When we understand the truth of God’s word that we are stewards of what we possess, then we will begin to handle things a lot different. How we handle we our finances will change and our commitment to giving our first fruits to God through tithing will be a priority for us. When we obey God’s word about giving and finances we will realize fruit beyond measure. God will provide for us health and wisdom, both financially and relationally when we are obedient to be good stewards.

The writer of Proverbs understood this. Read Proverbs 2 as one example. Job 28:28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'” 

So where do you fall in the first three categories. What do we do? The Bible offers us a solution. Two passages come to mind here. The first is found in Jeremiah 4:3. For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. The second is found in Hosea 10:12. Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you

We must break up the fallow ground through prayer, through reading the word and by removing the distractions from our life that prevent us from experiencing the growth we need to have. For some we need to remove the thorns from our life. How are the thorns evidenced? Maybe it’s bitterness, unforgiveness, lust, pride or anger. Even if you’re a Christian, these thorns, and the demonic forces they represent, can show up in your life. But God has given us the only tool, His Word, to get rid of the thorns for good and walk in freedom.

It is our choice today. What do you choose? Do you want fruit and life or do you want to be strangled out which results in death? 


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