When I started my first garden, Matt had to give me pretty detailed instructions. But one thing he didn’t have to tell me was where to plant.
I wasn’t going to take seed and just throw it all across our yard on the chance that some might make it into the good soil. I may be an amateur, but that seemed like a given.
So as I was reading the parable of the soils in Mark chapter 4, I saw a new dimension to this parable. The seeds that were sown on the good soil yielded a full harvest. Similarly, the seed of the word of God, when sown in a cultivated heart, has a better chance to do the same.
When I planted my garden, what did I do before I planted anything? First, Matt brought in fresh, nutrient-rich soil and I hoed, raked, and turned it over to mix with the soil that was already there. This was back-breaking work for a girl who hasn’t been in good shape in a very long time. I dug deep to try to mix the soil as best as I could to provide the best nutrients where the roots would be growing. In short, I spent time, hard work, and personal investment into this soil before anything was ever planted.
Second, I didn’t just throw around the plants (or seeds) haphazardly. I read the instructions and planted at the recommended depth and spacing.
After I planted, I didn’t just leave the plants to themselves. I returned to water them, pull weeds, and check their growth. With so much personal investment, I was determined to care for them through their growth as best I could.
So what does this have to do with the parable of the four soils?
Perhaps instead of haphazardly spreading the “seed” of the word of God, we should put more effort in cultivating soil first.
For instance, if I sense that God is leading me or a group of us to reach a certain person or group, we should get to know them. We should go where they are and build relationships with them and work with them. I’m not talking about surface relationships. I’m talking about getting deep into their lives and into their worlds. Making a personal investment of our time, energy, and resources.
By making this personal investment, we get to know them so well that we know when that “soil” is ready to receive the “seed.” And once we plant that seed, we don’t just walk away and hope all goes well. Granted, we have no power over the growth. That belongs to the Holy Spirit alone. But we can “water” the soil and we can keep an eye out for “weeds” that might choke their growth.
Another thing we have to remember is to actually plant the seed. We can’t spend time and effort cultivating the soil and hope a harvest pops up. I think sometimes as Christians, we either fall into one of two extremes. We scatter seed without any personal investment and wonder why there is no growth, or we invest in the soil without making an intentional effort to plant the seed.
Even still, putting all of this effort doesn’t guarantee a full harvest. Some seeds are still not going to grow. They aren’t going to thrive no matter how fertile the soil.
But one thing I believe is, a fuller harvest is more likely to come by planting in a cultivated soil than by simply throwing the seed.
What do you think?