14-15"The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them. 16-17"And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. 18-19"The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it. 20"But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams."
Mom asked me to get some planting soil the other day so that we could freshen up a large houseplant she nurtured from just a small plant. Over the course of time, soil has settled within the large pot, resulting in a packed condition to the soil housing this plant. It continues to do well, but Mom is aware that the condition of the soil determines the condition of what it produces. If we "refresh" the soil, the plant will do even better.
The same principle applies to the soil of our soul - good soil will readily receive the Word of God and will bring forth much new growth, while hardened and dry soil will be much more difficult to yield any growth. Jesus tells a story one day along the Sea of Galilee. Hundreds, if not thousands, gather to hear his stories of life. Today's story involves something that most in the region could associate with - sowing seed into various soils of the region. Any farmer will tell you that the soil is everything when considering where to plant your seed and what seed to plant. Yes, you need water, sunshine, and the right amount of hot or cool temperatures to produce the crop you desire, but if the soil was not right, the other things don't really matter.
Soul soil has really four conditions according to Jesus' story. They are: Hard or Packed, Rocky, Occupied, and Tilled. Each type of soil determines what (if anything) is produced and how well it is produced.
- Hard or Packed Soul Soil: 1) Seed simply "falls upon it" - there is no penetration of the seed into the soil. Without some measure of being "buried" into the soil, the efforts of that seed to spring forth into something resembling life will come to naught. 2) Seed falling on this type of hardened surface is subject to the elements and the birds that quickly recognize their opportunity for "fast food"! It is like hanging out a McDonald's sign for the birds! Within minutes, they can pick that field clean! 3) It is soil, but it is not readied - not conducive to embracing what is sown.
- Rocky Soul Soil: 1) The seed actually "gets into" the soil, but it has no real depth of growth. The fact of the matter is that the tender roots of new growth just cannot handle the pressures of the rocks. 2) The roots spring forth in an enthusiastic display of new growth, but it nothing more than "surface growth". Because there is a lack of depth, the energy of growth will soon be too much for the seed. Heat of day warms the gravel and soon wilts the growth. There is much more to seeing growth in our lives than simply responding with enthusiasm to the opportunity to grow!
- Occupied Soul Soil: 1) This is actually not bad soil - it is able to produce growth quickly. In other words, there is a responsiveness of soul that embraces the Word. The soil produces growth, but it is preoccupied soil! 2) The other occupants of the soil garner as much, if not more, attention than the fresh seed. Anxieties and pressures are all around us - the seeds of new growth sown into the midst of these things finds it hard to be the "only crop" produced from that soil.
- Till Soul Soil: 1) The farmer has been at work here - the soil is turned over and over, exposing the rocks that need removing, breaking up the clods of barren soil, and turning over into the soil those things that would block growth if they were allowed to grow up taller or in greater quantity than the new seeds sown. 2) The work of the farmer has prepared the soil - there is a receptiveness of the soil for the seed that is sown. 3) Roots can go deep where soil is prepared. Roots are paramount to growth. A lack of root system will ensure a dwarfed growth. The strongest crops establish good root systems quickly in order to tap into the nourishment needed for growth.
What is the condition of your "soul soil" today? Does it need a little weeding? Are there a few "rocky" places in your soil that need some turning over until they are removed? Regardless of the soil, the seed falls. It is a shame to waste good seed!