I’m descended from Finnish peasant farmers, so I’ve always enjoyed working in the yard, mowing the grass, and planting new flowers, shrubs, and trees. When I lived in Virginia, the soil was dark and rich and there was always plenty of rain so my yard was always one of the most attractive in the neighborhood. But it took a lot of work to keep my corner of the world looking pretty. I spent on average at least ten hours a week working my 10,000 square foot property.
When my wife and I moved to Southern California a couple of years ago, we bought a neglected, distressed property. The grass was brown, the weeds were taking over, the trees and shrubs were overgrown, and the house needed a lot of TLC. So we’ve been slowly trying to fix up the place as we battle ground hogs and the semi-arid climate. It’s not easy to grow stuff here! There’s not the dark, rich soil we had in Virginia; and there’s very little rain too, so I have to spend on average at least ten hours a week working my 1,000 square foot property!
Most of the people in Jesus’ day were farmers too. The semi-arid, Mediterranean climate of Palestine is similar to the climate of Southern California. It’s not easy to grow things there. So it was no coincidence when Jesus told his listeners this parable about farming (Matthew chapter 13):
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Privately latter, Jesus told his Disciples the meaning of his parable on farming:
“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Just like the previous owner of my home who neglected the property, if we neglect our hearts and souls then we too won’t grow and progress as human beings. And it’s not easy to grow good things in our semi-arid hearts either. We have to spend time and effort cultivating our heart’s soil and watering the plants so they’ll grow. There’s just no substitute for time and effort in order to become a better person.