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.
I want to focus in on the phrase when anyone hears the word of the kingdom. The parable of the sower is familiar to all believers and the four types of soil are equally familiar, particularly to those who are actively and regularly engaged in evangelism. However, I have often wondered something about this parable and want to consider it this morning.
The word that is rendered hears in translation is in the present tense in the original Greek, as well. This means that the action of hearing is happening now … and now … and now. The act of hearing, in fact, takes place along a continuum of now. It can be happening now and it can happen again tomorrow. This time I spend with God and His Word can be a time of hearing and tomorrow morning can be another such. Listening to pastors on the radio can be a time of hearing and the time spent in prayer can be another. There are, for the believer, almost limitless opportunities to hear the Word.
The other thing about this parable that is often interpreted one way, but leaves me thinking about how it might alternately be understood, is the fact that Jesus chose a sower of seed. Those who sow seed do not do it once and then are done with it. It is a recurring activity for them. This, if noted at all, is often used to spur believers on to evangelism — and rightly so. However, this also means that the soil — the same patch of soil — receives multiple opportunities to receive the seed and produce fruit. A good gardener or farmer notices that a patch of ground did not produce one year, so tills it and works it in order to have better results the next year. I think that there is a parallel in this between the farmer and God. God also works on human hearts in order to make them better able to receive His Word (the seed) and bear fruit.
The application here is a bit rougher than usual.
First, I must examine my own heart. What sort of soil am I presenting to receive the seed? Am I tilling the soil (keeping my heart tender) and pulling up the weeds (making sure that I cast my cares on Him) and tearing out the stones (Jesus gives no explanation for the stones in the stony soil, but I supply my own application in the form of the cares that weigh my heart down; the heavy things)? Am I, on short, making sure the soil of my heart is ready to receive the seed of His Word every day? I am not at all certain that I want to look this intently at the condition of my heart, but it must be done.
Second, I must not neglect coming to hear His Word. In order for the seed to bear fruit, it must first be planted and it cannot be planted unless I make the soil available to the sower. This means I need to be disciplined and faithful in this devotional time and I should look for other opportunities to hear from Him that His Word will find whatever good soil there is in my heart.
Third, I need to be scattering seed as well. Plants will naturally reproduce after their own kind by spreading seeds around. The seed germinates, grows into a plant, and the plant produces seeds that are then scattered to produce more plants. If God’s Word has taken root in my life and is bearing fruit, then there should produce. And part of that produce should be more of the same. A good example of this might be the passage in Corinthians wherein Paul tells the believers in Corinth that comforts us so that we can turn around and comfort others with that same comfort that we received from God.
Examine my heart. Be faithful to listen. Scatter seed.