by Barbie Perks
When I was in lockdown in South Africa a couple of weeks ago, I was reading an online devotion from the Scripture Union UK WordLive site. I have been mulling over it ever since. It was a challenge to think a little differently about the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15; Matthew 13:1-23). Luke says the seed is the word of God, and describes the reactions of those who hear it in terms of belief, salvation, faith, testing and maturity. Matthew describes it in terms of understanding the message about the kingdom, and how growth results from that understanding.
The challenge I took from the devotion was to reflect a little more on the meaning of the parable, going a little deeper than just reading it, thinking it just refers to hearing the call to salvation, therefore since I am already saved, I don’t need to respond to it any further. The seed is the word of God – the message about the kingdom – what am I understanding about the seed, the message today since I became a believer nearly 50 years ago?
A farmer went to sow his seed: there are many ‘farmers’ out there today – in print, on tape, online, in person – sharing the word of God in many formats. Who are you listening to? What are they saying? Are you studying the Word of God for yourself, so that you know that what they say is truly based on a sound knowledge of the Word?
Seed fell along the path, it was trampled, birds came and ate it up: a path is a well worn place that many have travelled – how often do we hear the same Bible passage preached on, and just ignore it because we are so familiar with it? Think of the other parables of Jesus, his castigation of the Pharisees, his praise of those who had faith in his ability to heal. Think of the sermon on the mount, those wonderful ‘guidelines’ for living the Christian life! Think of the Advent season. Think of Easter. How often do you actually “hear and understand the message”?
Seed fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil – it sprang up, but withered because it had no root/moisture: it’s interesting that this seed is received with joy, but testing and troubles cause it not to grow. Which talks and sermons, which books, which studies and discussions have you heard, read, participated in that have brought a joyful insight into your situation, that sadly has been short-lived because of the overwhelming reality of your circumstances?
Seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants: people who hear the word, but the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth and pleasures choke the word and make it unfruitful. There is a certain lack of maturity that results because we are so concerned with everyday matters and worries, we don’t get a chance to put into daily practice those things that we know would help us grow in our faith. Our level of trust, faith and knowledge of God remains very basic. We know we should be producing ‘fruit’ but wonder what that ‘fruit’ is. What concerns and worries do you have, very especially at this time of pandemic, panic, riot, economic and political instability that could choke your faith and trust in God?
Seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – 30, 60, 100 times what was sown! Oh, don’t we all want to be this seed!! Matthew says it’s the person who hears the word and understands it; Luke says it’s those with good and noble hearts, who hear the word, retain it and by perseverance produce the crop. What is the attitude that we come to God’s word with – a desire to understand, to be changed, to be productive for the kingdom? When life throws curve balls at us, when the devil attempts to take the word away from our hearts – how do we respond? Do we retain what we have learned in good times, that will sustain us and help us to persevere through the bad?
Jesus ended his parable saying, “He who has ears, let him hear”, and in Luke 8:18a he says “consider carefully how you listen…”
God, grant me ears to listen and hear your word, a heart to receive your word with joy, a mind to understand and put into practice what I learn, and a calm, trusting spirit to enable me to persevere and grow in my knowledge of you.
Photo above © Christine Sine