The Parable of the Four Soils

When was the last time you have read the story of the four soils? I remember reading it when I was a young kid and thinking, “What a dumb story.” I say that now because I have grown a lot since that time. I am glad to say that this story still challenges me.

So it is that Jesus is talking to a crowd of people. With everyone on his or her toes, Jesus states, “The kingdom of God is like a man who goes out and throws some seeds on the ground.” Wait a minute. The Kingdom of God is like a man that throws seeds on soil? Did I miss something here?

The first soil is fine but birds come and eat the seeds – there is no growth of anything because there is no seed to germinate. The second soil has a lot of rocks in it and the seed doesn’t get to grow a firm root. When the heat comes, the seed withers and dies because without a firm root, plants can’t survive the heat. The third soil has a lot of thorns in it. The funny thing about thorns is that it steals nutrients from plants that are trying to grow. If they are not removed – weeds and thorns – they will eventually choke out a plant that is on its way to maturity. The final plot of soil is tilled, irrigated and considered “good soil.” The plant grows well and is able to take root. There are no rocks or thorns in the way because the gardener takes care of it and watches over it so that birds do not eat what he has thrown down to produce a harvest. Day after day the plants grow up and produce a massive crop.

That’s the story.

Confused? The disciples were so confused, a couple of them decided to ask Jesus what He meant by the parable (a fancy word for a story with a spiritual meaning). So, Jesus opened up their eyes to this most important parable – He even said that if they don’t understand this one, how could or would they understand any other one – thus, we can say that what Jesus is going to tell them was uber important.

The first seed is stolen from Satan (the bird that ate the seed). The second plot of soil – with the rocks and stuff – is a person who hears the word of God (the Kingdom of God stuff) but is unable to practice what he or she preaches. They have no firm root in Christ. Eventually, a trial or something comes up – a death in the family, hardship like anyone else, something that challenges their faith in God – and they lose the battle; they end up “dying” to their faith. The third soil represents the cares of the world, and wealth, and power – all the things that people so desperately want in this day and age. The word of God takes no priority in their lives and eventually, the word is forgotten. The fourth and final soil is good soil. It is the kind of soil that produces fruit and reaps a huge harvest.

Christ does not say, “Pick your field friends.” In fact, if we are to read it in the manner in which it is written, Jesus never says they have an option in what kind of field they possess. If you don’t get to pick what kind of soil you have, how do we understand this parable? How can this be “good news?” ¾ of those who hear the message of the Kingdom of God, for one reason or another will not receive it and grow into maturity. Only a small amount of people will hear the message, receive it, and produce a fruit that is worthy of harvesting.

What about this gardener guy? If we are to assume that Jesus is the gardener, what part does He play in this whole ordeal? If God were watching out for the garden, the birds would not come and eat the seed. If God were busy working the field, there would be no rocks, thorns or weeds to contend with. Why on earth does it seem as though Jesus only cares about ¼ of the soil and not the rest? I can’t answer that question. And, in fact, I am not going to challenge God in that. Job did and he got is butt handed to him hardcore by God the Father. That is not a position I want to be in.

What I do know is that God is gracious and loving. He is full of mercy, and peace. His knowledge and will is made complete through Jesus. And, if the clay has no right to question the potter in how it is being formed, I am only suggesting that the soil has no right to ask why the Gardener isn’t tending one part of the field over another.

This must have been a hard thing for the Jewish people to hear (and the disciples). As Jesus said, “He who has ears let him hear.” I think that is what it is all about. All we can do is listen, and pray that the words Jesus speaks will take root in good soil and that we will produce a harvest that is worthy of the Gardener. Jesus is growing a harvest that is worthy of His Kingdom, a people of God to reign and serve with Him forever. This not only includes the people of Israel but Gentiles as well. Though there have been several unsuccessful attempts in sowing a harvest in different types of soil (the people of Israel through the words of the prophets and kings, as well as God), there will now be a successful sowing of the seed in good soil. When all is said and done, the harvest of the seed will produce a crop 30, 60, and 100 fold. That is a good harvest!

In conclusion, let us strive then to be good soil in which the Father labors. Let us hope and believe that we are growing something worth harvesting. Even though most of the growth happens in the ground beneath the soil, the fruit of the harvest speaks for itself. We must then continue to grow on the inside – the places where people do not see that kind of growth – and allow the outside to reflect what is happening. He who has ears, let he or she hear – and not only hear but do. Amen.

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