Read Luke 8:1-15

As He so often did, Jesus is teaching by drawing parallels to things his hearers could relate to and understand — everyday things that were familiar to them all. On this day He used farming as His metaphor, and underlined the crucial importance of soil conditions to germination, growth, and harvest.

The soil conditions He outlines are really the conditions of the hearts that receive the seed — His teaching — and how that bears on what hearing the Word produces in a life.

“Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”

He starts with seed falling on a path; hard-packed, untilled, and at the mercy of being trampled by countless feet. This is the well-worn path of those who follow the ways of the world, and see no purpose in leaving it. They hear the Word with joy, eager to have the blessings of faith. But because they think they can just add on without changing their direction, they give the seed no chance to take root, let alone grow. As soon as the Word lands, Satan (the god of this world) snatches it up, saying, “You don’t really want this. You’ll have to give up way too much. Besides, you could never be good enough for Him — why beat your head against a brick wall? You’re fine the way you are.”

As long as we stay on the world’s path, walking in step with Satan’s agenda, the Word can’t germinate. If we want to produce a spiritual crop, we have to get off the beaten trail and start walking in a new way, headed in a new direction.

“Those on rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing, they fall away.”

This patch has enough soil for the seed to germinate, but too many rocks to allow strong roots. These hard places of resistance, the parts that won’t yield, indicate a superficial faith that stubbornly clings to its preconceived ideas. It has a one-dimensional view of what is involved in a relationship with Jesus. In this equation of faith, belief equals a free pass — or at least a steeply discounted one. This kind of faith can’t stand up under testing because the believer has seen no reason to prepare themselves for anything but blessings, which need no preparation at all. This believer sees no need to gain spiritual strength and depth, to let the Word penetrate the heart, take root and grow in grace and understanding. So at the first sign of trouble, they pack it in. They were looking for an easy way out; for life on their terms, and not God’s.

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are chocked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

These new believers make some effort, but allow other things to take precedence over their relationship with God. They don’t see that they have to weed out the thorns of the world before the Word can flourish. As they try to tend to the seedlings of faith, they keep getting pricked by worries old and new, torn between God and greed, jabbed by selfishness. The thorns of their old life obscure real trust in God. They remain like children, perpetual adolescents who think they are wiser than their parents,who  fall prey to peer pressure, who worry about being accepted, and who want to accumulate all the things the world has to offer.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

It’s the “by persevering” that seems to give us the most trouble, yet it’s a clear and recurring theme throughout the New Testament. This is a believer who hears and retains the whole word of God; who is prepared to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth, to make sacrifices, to keep the main thing the main thing, to rely on and be guided by God, and not to be dislodged or derailed by trials. They keep on plowing, planting and weeding, experiencing times of drought, hail, infestations and other tests, but keeping on in the strength God provides.

Father, please help me to become fertile ground for the seed of Your Word. Show me where I am shallow, and deepen my commitment. Show me where my resolve is rocky, and enable me to be broken by Your love. Help me to weed out the fruitless things, to get past the thorns to the throne.