The Parable of the Sower: A Lesson for the Modern Church

Over the past forty years, I have seen the dominant American church get involved in many things to make the message more “sinner friendly,” so they can bring more people into the church, so they can be saved.  However, when we search the Scriptures, we discover that the current approach is the exact opposite of what we see taught in the Bible.

In the Bible, salvation happened outside of the church congregation, not inside it, since the church is God’s house.  You don’t sow seed or reap a harvest in the house, but outside of it.  So people went out, witnessed, and brought people to the Lord outside of the church building or meeting place, and then brought them into the meeting place to be taught and trained, so then these people, now taught and trained, could go outside and lead others to the Lord.  So what I see here is an important lesson that many of us in the church today need to go back and examine within the “Parable of the Sower” which was told by Yeshua (Jesus) in the Gospel of Matthew.

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

Behold, a sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the road (or way side), and the birds came and ate them up.  And others fell upon the rocky (or stony) places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.  And others fell among the thorns; and the thorns came (or sprung) up, and choked them out.  And others fell on good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:1-9)

MY OWN ANALYSIS

Now before examining Yeshua’s (Jesus’) own interpretation of this parable, let’s go through and exam it.  In this parable, there’s one sower, one seed, and four different types of soils: the soil by the road, the rocky soil, the soil with thorns, and the good soil.  Now if we were to use the mindset of most churches today, they would realize that there are four different soils, so they would try to find four different sowers who were specialists or knowledgeable in working with those particular types of soil.  Then they would either genetically manipulate the seed so that it would grow in that particular type of soil, or they would use four different types of seed.  After all, they would want the seed to be conducive for the soil.

However, what I find interesting in Yeshua’s (Jesus’) parable is that there is only one sower (not four) and only one bag of seed (not four different kinds).  Obviously, from this I think we can derive three important truths:

 The Reaction of the Soil is not due to the Sower.  In this parable, there is only one sower, but what we need to know is that the soil’s reaction was not due to the sower.  As we’ll discuss, the response was due to what was in the soil, not to the one who was spreading the seed.  Consequently, it doesn’t matter who the person is who is giving out the seed.  This, I think, is a freeing concept because it means that any believer can sow the seed, and you don’t need to be “a specialist” or especially knowledgeable person with that type of soil, or group of people, when handing out the seed to them.  You just need to sow the seed in the best way you can.

The Reaction of the Soil is not due to the Seed.  Also, the soil’s reaction was not due to the seed itself; therefore, we should not be involved in changing the message to make it “more conducive” or “acceptable” to the soil, or group of people (i.e., “sinners”).  If anything, we should do our best to make sure that the seed is as pure (or biblical) as possible, since we don’t want to hand out any seed that has been “tainted” with the ideas, beliefs, or philosophies of people.

The Reaction of the Soil is due to the Soil Itself.  In all of the four soils, their reaction was due to the condition of the soil itself.  For example,

SOIL #1: THE SOIL BY THE ROAD.  In the first soil, there is no soil to it, since it is a well used road, as a result, the seed just laid there on the surface, so that the birds could come along and eat it.

SOIL #2: THE ROCKY (OR STONY) SOIL.  In the second soil, due to the rocks and stones in it, there was some soil, but not much, as a result, the seed sprouted quickly, but since there was no depth to it, when the sun arose, the seed was scorched, and because there was little soil for it to take root, it withered away.

SOIL #3: THE SOIL AMONG THORNS.  In the third soil, there was some soil, but it was full of thorns.  So when the seed was planted, it initially took root and grew, but the thorns ended up choking the plant, so that it was never able to produce any fruit.

SOIL #4: THE GOOD SOIL.  In the fourth soil, there is no comment as to any problems with the soil, but it is called “good soil.”  In it, then, we must conclude that the seed had the depth and room needed for it to be planted, take root, and grow, producing a harvest, some hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

JESUS’ INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE:

Okay, now that we’ve analyzed the parable itself, as well as analyzed the four type of soils, let’s add into this discussion Yeshua’s (Jesus’) own interpretation, which He provides later to the disciples.

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 the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 
  • And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.
  • And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness (or illusion) of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
  • And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. (Matthew 13:18-23)

ADDING DEPTH TO THE DISCUSSION

Now adding Yeshua’s (Jesus’) own interpretation, let’s take our understanding even deeper.

SOIL #1:  This first group of people who lack any knowledge of the Scriptures.  But what we need to remember is that there was no New Testament at this point, so the Scriptures that Yeshua (Jesus) is alluding to here is what we call the “Old Testament” (Heb. Tanakh). But because there’s no understanding regarding the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures), the people don’t understand His teachings, what He calls “the word of the Kingdom,” and as a result, Satan comes and removes the “seed” from their hearts.

Obviously, then, as Christians we need to realize that Yeshua (Jesus) saw the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures) as the needed “soil” so that we can properly take in and understand His teachings, and without it, the “seed” cannot be properly planted within our lives, opening the way for Satan to come and to remove God’s Word from our lives.  Therefore, we should be learning the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures), learning them, and teaching them to others, so that we can have the needed “soil” for the teachings in the New Testament to properly take root, and produce the fruit that God desires within our lives.

SOIL #2:  In this second group of people, there is some “soil,” but not much of it.  However, due to the “rocks” or “stony places,” it doesn’t allow for much “soil,” as a result, when these people hear the “word of the Kingdom,” it immediately takes root in their life, and fruit begins to grow, but because there’s no much soil in their lives, the “seed” is scorched – the people experience opposition, affliction or persecution because of the word – the people then quickly fall away.  In this case, this grouping of people need to clean the “rocks” out of their hearts and to bring more “soil” – knowledge of the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures) – into their lives, so the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus) can take proper root in their life and produce the fruit that God desires in their life.

SOIL #3:  In this third grouping of people, again there seems to be more soil than group #2, but the problem is that their focus is on the “cares of this world” and “the deceitfulness / illusion” that riches could make them happy, and even though the “seed” takes root, and the “plant” begins to grow, the “thorns” of these cares and their pursuit of riches chokes out the word, and as a result, they never produce the fruit that God desires for their life.  Since this tends to describe many people in the dominant American church, we need to wake up to this warning.

SOIL #4: In this final group of people, they have the needed depth and understanding of the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures), so that when they hear “the word of the Kingdom,” it takes root and brings forth a harvest in their life, some hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

CONCLUSION

In really looking at what Yeshua (Jesus) is teaching us in this parable, we need to seriously take what Yeshua (Jesus) is saying here.  Rather than changing “the seed,” we need to realize that the issue is not who is sowing the seed, or the seed, but the issue is the soil, the people, and the condition of their hearts, what’s “in the soil.”  And in each case, I believe when we put it back into its historical and cultural context, the “soil” represents the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures) since there was no New Testament at this time.

The Tanakh (Old Testament) is the foundation, framework and context that we need to understand to properly understand the New Testament.  This is the reason God gave it to us first, so these important elements could be set in place, so that when Yeshua (Jesus) did come and began teaching the gospel and what would become the New Testament that it would take root and grow as God intended within the heart of those who embraced God and His Word.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and ideas on this study.  I pray that each of us can have the soil needed so that we can produce a harvest that would bring glory to God and the Lord Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.

 

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