I’m no gardener. No interest in it. Left to myself, I’d leave it to itself. Weeds everywhere. Some weeds look good.
That’s why I always feel unqualified to comment on Jesus’ farming metaphors, even though I’ve lived in rural areas, none of that green thumbedness ever rubbed off. In fact I like to keep my thumbs clean. But I don’t think Jesus was trying to teach us to be good gardeners or organic farmers. He wanted us to check our hearts, not our sheds. You know this story I’m sure:
“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. Are you listening to this? Really listening?
The question is, What kind of soil are you? The seed’s always good, it’ll do its work, but what really matters is where it lands.
Let’s look at some soils…soil tests measure fertility
1) HARD – unreceptive. The seed is wasted, but the farmer is generous enough to be thought wasteful. Some people are hard soil. It seems they give no attention to the gospel at all. They don’t even hear what they’re told about God. resistant, they want nothing to do with God and his kingdom. I’ve met some people who seem like hard soil, but percentage wise it’s very few actually. Sometimes people who seem like hard soil are just trying to pretend. Like Saul did, he even persecuted Christians – no Christians were going to get near enough to put any seeds his way – but when Jesus sovereignly revealed himself in a vision he said, “It’s hard FOR YOU to kick against the goads.” Something was going on inside this toughest of hard cases all along, and God knew that… he can work with hard soil.
2) SHALLOW – there are people who seem to get the message at first, it makes them happy. But they just added ‘God loves me’ on top of their lives rather than letting the reality of a relationship with the Supreme One change anything deeper inside. Because there is no real depth (no real repentance?), there’s no true commitment – the soil is shallow. Maybe they were not told to count the cost, and when the heat of persecution comes, or even when the troubles of an ordinary life in a fallen world continue, they respond by shrinking back. Blaming God even. they though the gospel was just a comfort blanket they needed – something to make life feel better for a while). They give up on the choice they seemed to have made – like someone joining the gym at new year, and go looking for a different kind of hope to make life easier for a while.
3) THORNY. Agriculturalists measure the soil for ‘contaminants.’ I’ve been excited to meet people who quickly receives good news when it’s preached, maybe at a hard time of their lives when drowning in despair they reach out to grab salvation’s passing lifeline – but they’re more interested in getting on a luxury liner than manning a lifeboat to help others out. Jesus talks about the riches of this world, and the worries that accompany such things. You can’t have one without the other. Weeds of worry and desire for finer things in this life choke out what the seed was trying to produce. Striving for more of what will end up as somebody else’s antiques or junk ensures that no lasting fruit is borne. The commitment is to a life of comfort more than a life of service – saying and singing all the right things about Jesus, but in the end it’s their own desires that rule their lives.
4) GOOD SOIL – is productive! You can’t tell by looking at ‘soil’ what it will end up like. thats’ why teh seed goes everywhere. But eventually you can tell because good soil will produce fruit. And Jesus is optimistic about that soil – he says it’ll produce thirty, sixty or onehundrefold! All that potential placed in the seed, just waiting for the right soil.
So, perhaps a quarter of people have no interest. Half of those who seem to accept the message fizzle out and bear no fruit. Pretty depressing statistics!
Churches often try to appeal to the bad soil and keep them happy, trying to tell them that following Jesus really requires little effort or sacrifice – just come once a week if you’re not too busy and have fun. Be passive not active, we don’t expect fruit, just sit there like good soil…
How often do we hear the common complaint that twenty percent of the people do eighty per cent of the work, give eighty per cent of money the money and so on. Re-read this parable and you know why! It wouldn’t surprise Jesus. There’s a lot of bad soil around. Consumer Christians, educated beyond the level of obedience.
How much of a Christian does your church require you to be?
We’ve not done well with this. Don’t a lot of our programmes and so on say, ‘You can be totally uncommitted to the cause of Jesus and his kingdom, distracted by focusing on the accumulation of stuff, and we’d still love you to be a member here?”
Who’s responsible for bearing fruit? YOU ARE.
You’re accountable. Are you good soil or bad soil? I don’t know, but time will tell – and eternity will keep on telling. Life is like a coin; you can spend it any way you like, but you only spend it once.
Most of us would be very pleased with a 10% Return on Investment. 20% is great! Jesus says if you’re good soil you will bear fruit at either 3000%, 6000% or 10,000%. That’s a lot of fruit! He says, “Abide in me and produce much fruit.” This is an enterprise worth investing in! I want to invest myself in people who want to bear fruit!
Jesus never forced himself on the disinterested. He never altered his call or message to suit the hearer. Read the account of the rich young ruler in Mark 10: This guy would fit the bill for the ideal church member! And Jesus loved him, but didn’t chase him.