The Sower, Seed, and Soil

The rains have been falling and the temperatures have been rising. Add some sunshine, and you have the perfect ingredients for a growing garden. It is quite remarkable how quickly plants can spring up. One day they’re small, and seemingly overnight, great growth occurs.

Jesus frequently used agricultural language to express spiritual truth—seeds, weeds, trees—this is the stuff of the parables. One of the most well-known parables is the Parable of the Sower (also referred to by some as the Parable of the Seed or the Parable of the Soils). This parable is found in Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; and Luke 8:4-15. Perhaps this is one of the more well-known parables because Jesus provides the interpretation of it. We are not left scratching our heads, wondering about the meaning of the seed and the sower. Furthermore, it is a foundational parable. Jesus asks in Mark 4:13, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”

As is the case with most of the parables, we can hear it from different points of view. For example, with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it can be read through the point of the view of the father, the older son, or the younger son. In the case of the parable of Matthew 13:1-23, it can be heard with an emphasis on the sower, the seed, or the soil. However, it should be noted that in Matthew 13:18 Jesus refers to it as “the parable of the sower.”

Many of the parables have some sort of peculiar element. They are meant to upset the status quo and leave us wondering about the thing that seems out of place. This being the case, consider the sower for a moment. In traditional gardening, much time is spent getting the soil ready. If you paid someone to sow seed, you would expect the person to be a good steward of the seed, sowing it wisely and responsibly.

Imagine this sower. This sower of seed throws it “along the path” (Matthew 13:4). Some of the seed “fell on rocky ground” (Matthew 13:5). Some of the seed “fell among the thorns” (Matthew 13:7). Still, some “fell on good ground” (Matthew 13:8). When I envision this sower, I see someone just throwing seed rather haphazardly wherever it happens to go. It just doesn’t seem like a very good approach to sowing seed.

But perhaps that’s the point. Maybe this sower understands something many of us miss. It is not our job to judge the soil. It’s simply our task to throw the seed everywhere, letting it fall where it may. If you have any gardening experience, you have probably had the experience of being surprised by the results. Perhaps the prepared soil doesn’t produce well, while something grows unexpectedly in an unanticipated location.

It is tough to judge the soil accurately. Therefore, throw the seed everywhere and just see what happens. At least that’s how the sower in the parable approaches the task. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). When the word of God goes out, it accomplishes God’s purposes (Isaiah 55:11). Our job isn’t to strategically locate good soil; our job is to broadcast the seed over as much area as possible.