Examining the Soil of Our Hearts: Implementing the wisdom of the Sower
by C. David Ragland, Jr.
How we receive God’s Word depends on the condition of our heart. So, we must examine our hearts carefully, with God’s guidance. Also, we ‘must’ be honest with ourselves. In 2 Cor 13:5 we read, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (Psa 17:3; Psa 26:2; Psa 119:59; Psa 139:23,24; Lam 3:40; Eze 18:28; Hag 1:5,7; 1Co 11:28,31; Gal 6:4; Heb 4:1; Heb 12:15; 1Jo 3:20,21; Rev 2:5; Rev 3:2,3)
In Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:2-9; and Luke 8:4-8 Jesus gave us the Parable of the Sower. The parable was then explained in Matthew 13:18-23; Mark 4:13-20; and Luke 8:11-15.
Let’s use the explanatory verses from Matthew for our examination:
Matthew 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
What is the condition of my heart today? Am I by the wayside? Has my heart been hardened toward God by anger and self pity? Have I become unloving and indignant toward life and the Author of it? If I allow the trials that are manifested in life to fill me with unrelenting anger and unbelief, the soil of my heart will be as the barren, sun parched desert lands. All seed sown will utterly fail to even sprout because, I am by the way side and will fail to even understand the Word.
“Jesus says he is teaching in parables because he does not want everyone to understand him, only those who are his followers. Those outside the group are not meant to understand them. Thus one must already be committed to following Jesus to fully understand his message and that without that commitment one will never fully understand him or be helped by his message. If one does not correctly understand the parables, this is a sign that one is not a true disciple of Jesus.” (John J. Kilgallen, A Brief Commentary On the Gospel of Mark (New York: Paulist Press, ©1989), p. 84.)
Matthew 13:20 – But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
If I fail to examine my heart, fail to fully surrender it to Christ, and fail to heed God’s wisdom, my heart will be stony and lack depth. I will sit in the sanctuary, listening to God’s Word being preached. I will appear to be like everyone else there, but the Seed will not last long in a stony heart. Stony-hearted folks crumble under the trials of life. The Word has no root in their hearts and thereby fails in becoming their substructure. The superficial faith of a stony heart glorifies God in good times, but withers under trials.
Matthew 13:22 – He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
Have I tended my heart’s soil as I should or, have I allowed it to be overgrown with thorns? Any good gardener will tell us, “You must root out the competition for nutrients if you are to properly care for your chosen plants” So, I have to choose. What shall I plant in my heart? And, will I give it priority? (Josh 24:15) The cares and concerns of this world, the pursuit of vain riches and carnal pleasure compete for control of our hearts. I must remember that, I cannot serve God and carnality. (Matt 6:24) I cannot be duplicitous with our Omniscient God, but instead be single minded. (James 1:18)
Matthew 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
This is the soil I ought to want in my heart! A proper heart, a heart surrendered to the One who shall one day show us out of the grave is one that hears, understands, and bears fruit! We are to believe, belong, and become!
I cannot in good conscience fail to point out that this is the Parable of the Sower, not the Parable of the Soils. While we must certainly tend the soil of our hearts, but the primary focus here is Christ. He has sown His Word (seed) upon all hearts thereby giving all an opportunity. Those who will not receive are accountable. (John 3:18) Finally, the lesson we see taught here should keep us from being puzzled by those who will not listen. In the parable, we have been advised regarding the various soils we can and will encounter as we assay to sow God’s Word in obedience to the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16-20)
C. David Ragland, Jr.