Most of us know the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, the parable in which Jesus describes a farmer tossing out seed while planting his fields, the seed falling on a variety of soils and how those seeds grew.
“As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:4-8
Often we think of this parable as a parable of the soils (some translations do title it this way), a lesson about the conditions of our hearts and our response to the Word. But what if we think of this from the perspective of the farmer? He sows freely, scattering the seed across all the soil, not just the good soil, and allows it to grow freely.
This spring, I took my first swat at a vegetable garden. While I have a little bit of experience with flower gardening, I have effectively no experience with vegetable gardening. But I wanted to try growing some of my own food, having fresh herbs (a basil or mint plant cost about the same amount as a bunch of fresh herbs, anyway) and a few vegetables outside my back door. I tried starting some seeds indoors in the early spring, but none of them really germinated, so I gave up on them and relied on the flower bulbs and vegetable plants I bought from the local nursery. After filling the raised beds with bags of garden soil, I tossed in the little bits soil that I had used in the failed attempt to germinate the seeds indoors.
Within a week of planting a bunch of hosta and astilbe bulbs in the larger of my raised beds, a few large, flat leaves poked up from the soil and I got excited! They didn’t look like hosta leaves, so I assumed they were the astilbe I had planted (but never seen in person before). As time went on, though, it became clear that these were NOT astilbe leaves and the yellow, conical flowers confirmed that these were summer squash plants, popped up from the seeds left in the soil I had tossed in last minute, assuming the seeds dried out and dead. Next thing I knew, the seeds I hadn’t known I sowed were growing rapidly and flourishing.
Sometimes, we sow the seeds of faith intentionally, cultivating the soil of our relationships so that the truth will spring up and produce a good crop as our friends come to Christ and build relationships with him. Once in a very great while, we get to see the harvest, too. But sometimes we don’t.
More often, I am flinging seeds randomly, or spreading them accidentally, like burrs on pant legs or dandelion fluff. And unfortunately, these seeds are not always seeds of truth. All of my interactions are acts of scattering seeds, and it seems to me that the soil is often good enough, even if the seed is not. We plant ideas and philosophies in the minds of our friends and coworkers with every interaction and, sooner or later, they blossom into fully grown ideologies, especially when we plant the same seeds over and over again.
It took me a long time to learn how much people remember how you made them feel. It took me even longer to learn to respect this. I operate much more with my logic than my feelings, which, while helpful in many situations, can cause me to struggle to understand and attend to that aspect of our relationships. That means I can sow seeds of anger and distrust simply through misunderstandings and miscommunications. It can be difficult for me to clearly communicate the difference between my frustration with a situation and my frustration with a person and this leads to feelings of broken trust and hurt feelings.
Conversely, I can sow seeds of joy and grace by accident as well, by extending grace and mercy in arguments, offering forgiveness and hospitality and comforting the weak and hurting. Even when I am not intentionally ministering, I am bearing the name of Christ as a member of his body. What I do, good or bad, carries the name of Christ with it and will grow into the image of Christ for those around me. It seems clear that the bad images will grow more quickly and aggressively than the good ones, likely because of our human, fallen nature. There is more fertilizer in our lives to feed the negative ideas. For that reason, I must be much more active and intentional is minimizing the weeds I accidentally (or intentionally) sow, daily removing the weeds from my own heart and allowing God to change my heart to better resemble his own, to avoid planting a false image of our
savior in the hearts and minds of others.
Seeds of doubt and hatred don’t need good soil to grow. They grow well on the path, in the rocky places and among the thorns. They grow like invasive weeds, taking over the good soil and smothering the flowers of truth and God’s love. I need to be much more careful about the seeds I sow by accident.