It’s fascinating to read the parables of Jesus because there always seems to be something new that comes from it. That’s how I feel about the parable of the sower.
Take a few minutes to read one or more of the accounts:
The parable is simple: the sower (Christ) scatters his seed generously and it ends up on four different types of terrain.
Some land on the side of the road, some on rocks, others in thorny soil, and some in good soil. The first three groups of seed die and the seed planted in the good soil flourishes.
And we immediately say, “I want to be the good soil.” Or we say, “I know some people who are like the rocky soil,” and, “Let’s pray for the folks who are stuck in the thorny soil.”
The parable of the sower quickly becomes the parable of the soil.
So why is it called the parable of the sower, when all we do is talk about the soil?
Think About the Sower
If we reread the parable from the perspective of the sower, we get a better understanding of why Jesus called it the parable of the sower, not the parable of the soil.
Jesus shares that the sower scattered seed (the Word of God) on all types of ground. It didn’t say that he was meticulously planting the seeds in designated ‘good soil’ areas – it says he was scattering the seed everywhere.
Doesn’t that seem wasteful though? I mean, if I were planting a field, why would I throw seed on rocks, thorns, and the side of the road? Wouldn’t you want to be careful and put the seed in the good soil from the beginning?
But remember what Jesus said earlier:
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” – Luke 5:31 NIV
Christ makes it clear that he came to rescue sinners. His purpose was to bring salvation to everyone.
The meaning of the parable of the sower is twofold:
- To show that Christ came to share the Word of God with everyone. We don’t serve a stingy God who picks and chooses who is good enough to hear the word. He graciously sows into everyone who is willing to accept his word.
- To show us how the different soils in our life can keep us from sharing God’s truth with others.
We can’t ignore the soil types completely, but it was important that we first recognize the message of the generous sower.
Jesus knew that most of the people in the crowd would say, “Wow, great story,” and move along with their lives. When he ended the parable with, ‘he who has ears to hear, let him hear,’ Jesus was challenging them to think about the meaning of the parable.
The best part about Jesus’ examples of the soil types is that a lot of us will experience a few of them in our own lives.
‘Some fell along the path’
This is the ‘in one ear, out the other’ crowd. Picture a middle-eastern road hardened by years of travel by men and animals. What happens to the seed when it falls here? It sits out in the open for the birds to come and get it. If we don’t take God’s Word seriously, that’s the soil we’re representing.
‘Some fell on rock’
These people know the Word of God, but when they’re tested, they collapse. They have no root. They’re not planted deep enough in the soil, so God’s Word hasn’t truly become their foundation.
It’s a superficial faith that springs up when times are good. But when the heat comes, just like the sun on a hot day, the small seedling that shot up on the rock will wither and die for lack of soil and water.
‘Other seed fell among thorns’
They hear the word, but do nothing with it.
They know the word, but don’t truly accept it.
They teach it, but don’t practice it.
If we’re not earnestly seeking the Word of God, it leads to indifference about devotions and relationship with him.
So what happens? The source for satisfaction comes from external things (the thorns): riches, pleasures, and prosperity. Even though the seed was planted in good soil, the thorns choked it, just like these things can choke us from depending on God.
‘Still other seed fell on good soil’
. . . and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. It may seem like funny math and bad business, but God knew what he was doing when he sent Christ to scatter the seed everywhere.
There’ll be times in your life when you feel like you’re firmly planted in the good soil. Use this opportunity to share God’s Word with others.
But remember, the fruit of sharing the Gospel doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes a humble heart and meditation on the Word of God to produce good fruit and to further the Kingdom of God.
What are your thoughts on the parable of the sower? Leave a comment!
The Bible has so much to say about our money! Here are some Bible verses that has revolutionized my finances!
This is great – you are so right that we tend to focus on the soil and not the sower. My own blog has religious themes to it and I really do hope that it touches the heart of a person or two along the way. Even with minimal traffic, I get a comment here or there from rocky soil people, but that’s not the point. The point is – did I try?
Mesh this with Paul in 1st Cor 3:6 “I have planted. Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” and it’s really clear that all you can do is a part of the work.
David Pickett says
First, Jesus didn’t call it the parable of the sower. lol. You got me laughing … second, wrong again, when Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. It was a rebuke against the Pharisees who, “complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'” They were the ‘righteous’ (in their own minds). Yes Jesus came to preach to them too but He knew they would never accept it.
Theodore Onyameh says
If you understand the meaning of the parable of Jesus,the parable of the sower,it means you understand about faith,this is the best way to have faith by looking at the sower, Gardner,soil and harvest,it is very clear .
WHO WAS THE SOWER?
IS YOUR FATE DETERMINED BY WHAT SOIL YOU WERE SOWN IN?
Over the last few years, I’ve become convinced that the parable of the Sower (along with another horticultural-based Gospel story) is another approach to sharing the Greatest Commandment, that is, love the Lord with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
To not love the Lord with your whole heart, is to have other items of the world take precedence over your heart, not unlike how the weeds strangle the seed.
To not love the Lord with your whole soul is not unlike those who have not allowed God’s claiming on your soul, by virtue of the sacraments (incl baptism). This is not unlike those whose seed has fallen on a well-trampled pathway, not piercing through to the soil.
To not love the Lord with your whole mind is not unlike those who have a shallow faith, those whose seed fell upon the rocky ground, not allowed to delve deep.
To not love the Lord with your whole strength is likened to a fully grown plant, benefiting from the proper sustenance a plant would have, but not growing any fruits. This is not unlike the cursed fig tree that had no fruits to share.
Of course, you can have great fun with this, and link these also to the characters in the Wizard of Oz (heart = Tinman; soul = Dorothy (because the soul longs for its true home); mind = Scarecrow; strength = Cowardly Lion). It depends on your audience.
Great article Tim!!
It never occurred to me that the Title of the Parable of the Sower never matched up to the focus of my Sunday School lessons: the soil. And I never thought about how this parable shows how generous Jesus is. He offers his salvation to everyone, not just a select few He picked from before time. But only those who accept His truth get to enjoy it.
I’m trying to keep the focus of my blog on God and His character despite whatever hurt people may face. My prayer is that I author my posts, I keep in mind the Amazing Sower who scatters His seeds with incredible purpose.
James Salmons says
This is a very good post and shows some thoughtful interpretation of the Bible passage, very much worth thinking about.
I don’t want to sidetrack the major theme, but your initial statement about how much we can keep learning from the parables brings to my mind the absolute number one reason in my thinking from early in my life undergirding a firm belief in the inspiration of the Bible.
With any other book one reading or perhaps two or three can pretty much explore any real value. Of course you can study Shakespeare in depth or whatever trying to guess what the author meant here or there, but even the deepest philosophy in no way compares to the inexhaustible insights revealed by the Bible, not just in the parables but overall. You cannot read anywhere in the Bible very long without those “ahah!” moments.
This experience is there for us all. It doesn'[t require a book on apologetics for us to realize its truth. And it leads to us learning from this passage as it does with others.
I really enjoyed reading this article. As I was reading about the soils, I suddenly realized that the different soils represented cumulative stages of my growth in Christ. I am so thankful to have reached the “good soil” stage and can see that Christ kept sowing his word into my heart until it was transformed from “the path” to “the good soil”. It has taken me most of my life to get to this stage, but now that I am here, I am receiving many revelations about who I am in Christ and this article has become one of them. Thank you for being God’s light for me.
Thank you for this insight. I can relate to your experience, as I suspect many others can. It is good to think of my children continuing through stages where they may become much more receptive to hearing and retaining God’s word. Our culture has a powerful ability to choke out God’s truth and replace it with comfortable lies. So I pray that many sowers cross paths with the ones I care most about, as I continue to sow where I am.
Hi. Can the parable of the sower also be looked at in a different way? That the sower (investor) scattered his seed (money) in diversified investments like shares, bond, property etc. Some of it landed on rocky ground and others on fertile soil. The one on fertile soil . . . yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. This parable would then teach about investing in a diversified way so as to spread your risk and one investment will bear fruit.
Laoshi J says
Interesting concept. However, the proponents of the Prosperity Gospel misinterpret The Parable of the Sower, as meaning the seed is money and how it is sown into a good ministry. That doctrine could not be further from the truth. The seed as noted is the Word of God, not money.
James Corbin says
“To show us how the different soils in our life can keep us from sharing God’s truth with others.”
I cannot see how this can be. The soil is the condition of the hearer, what he does with the Word once received. I cannot see how the soil has much to do with those spreading the Word.
This is a gentle disagreement. 🙂
Tx for this. Another implication of this is the question on my own witness: Do I only witness to those whom I perceive to be good soil (those people I naturally associate with)? Or do I also share with those that I would normally not associate with?
James Salmons says
We are not competent to judge who will be receptive. Some years ago I was canvassing a neighborhood inviting folks to send their children to a Bible club. I stopped at all the houses but almost skipped by the backdoor of a run down bar that appeared to house living quarters, especially when I saw the apparent resident, a disheveled looking man setting on the steps sipping a can of beer.
Then I noticed a couple of children’s toys in the yard. So I admitted somewhat skeptically turned and approached him. I received the heartiest welcome I received that day and his children showed up for the Bible club.
I felt embarrassed that I almost skipped this home but was so glad I didn’t, and I learned a great lesson. Listen to the parable again. The sower sowed everywhere. So should we.
michael chigwada says
I still need more of these parables. they are helping me grow strong in spiritual life
David Pickett says
So, I guess Jesus did call it the parable of the sower
Pat Jacobs says
I see how Jesus as a voice of God on earth, could easily have been referring to the seed as human seed or semen. A good father would want to put his seed in a richly righteous seed bed of wife and family; not on a rocky path where others have gone before and will come after like a prostitute. Nor does God suggest that the weeds which hide from view the young plants that are growing is a good place to start a garden, it is still a place where he looks for his children and finds them. This weed patch could easily refer to those men who act like the Coocoo bird which lays its eggs “hidden” in other birds’ nest for the other birds to raise as their own. Doesn’t this sound like the outcome of wild sexual behavior? Children stuck in the morass of the CPS with very little chance of living up to their potential when conceived in Woman by Seed given to Man by GOD and not intended to be raised by the Sower?
The parable appears to have more than one meaning as God knows about the power of evil in the world and while desiring to spread the Word as well as suggest righteousness can and does flourishes in many places when Man uses free will with righteous restraint. Some places are a harder struggle than others, but can produce a humble servant of God just the same.
Sounds like you have a one-track mind. 🙂 BTW, I surmise that CPS is Child Protective Services, but it could be Chicago Public Schools or Crown Prosecution Service (UK criminal justice system) or Classroom Performance System or Canadian Paediatric Society, for that matter.
Pat, your application seems consistent with mormon beliefs, where human semen is the powerful force in the construction of God’s kingdom. Are you a mormon?
It is interesting but sad that people seek other interpretations of the clear word of God. Jesus gave the meaning: the Seed is the Word. It is generously sown, showing the generosity of God in the sharing of the Word. It is the Word that is essential and powerful and the source of blessing. By this parable Jesus explains why some receive the Word and grow and why others do not. As mentioned, we should not focus on the soils/situations but to encourage one another in our evangelization. Remind others that Satan is near–resist him! Remind others that cares and worries choke are closing in on our reception of the Word. Remind others that a fast love of God is great but needs to dig deeper into the Word. Jesus lays it all out so that we ourselves do not get discouraged–or come up with false ideas about our own ability to make things “work” or grow. As Paul wrote, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). The true meaning for us to understand is that it is not your work that does anything in the universe, but it is God who does everything, including your reception of Christ in your heart.” It is a God work, not your work. Celebrate the day you discovered that God loved you with an infinite love, rather than when you “accepted” Jesus.
CHUKWU PROSPER says
The parable of the sower, simple,
It means how we love GOD from our hearts.