A good crop depends mainly on the seed and the condition of the soil. Farmers frequently analyze their soil to determine what minerals need to be added so they might have the greatest possible harvest. Then, the soil is prepared for planting by cultivation and fertilization. The seed is planted and watered. Growth is monitored to determine what needs to be done before the crop reaches maturity.
If we examine the parable of the sower (Mat. 14; Mark 4; Luke 8), we come to realize that the seed which is sown must be the Word of God (Luke 8:11). It is seed of highest quality. Anything less will adversely affect the harvest (2 The. 2:10-12). This seed, the Word of God, is all that should be planted. It is enough to make the harvest complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
This, however, is not simply a parable of the sower, but it is also a parable of the soil. We are the soil into which this seed is sown. According to Jesus, there are four types of soil possible and only one of them gives abundant harvest. It is important that the soil is properly prepared to receive the seed. Herein lies our responsibilities as hearers of the Word. These responsibilities apply to non-Christians and also to Christians. We should determine the nature of our soil and then take the necessary steps to make our soil “good ground.” Let’s examine our soil!
1. Is ours wayside soil? Here is soil which is so hardened by sin that seed cannot penetrate. It is a condition descried in various other ways in the New Testament [e.g., “seared in their conscience as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2); “hardening of their heart” and “past feeling” (Eph. 4:18, 19); “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13)]. According to Hebrews chapter 3, it is a condition that can be reached by believers as well as unbelievers. To prevent this condition, we must “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Mat. 5:6). We must desire to know the truth (1 Pet. 2:2).
2. Is ours rocky soil? Jesus said of this soil “these have no root…and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). Here is soil which seems, at least on the surface, to be good soil; but when temptations come the plants die because the plants have no roots—the soil is not deep enough. We are told that with temptations come ways of escape (1 Cor. 10:13) and that, we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask God for it (Jam. 1:5). This soil lacks depth partly because of a failure to pray. And also, according to Hebrews 5:14, the ability to distinguish good from evil, which is necessary in overcoming temptation, is obtained from exercising our senses—by “reason of use.” Rocky soil results when we fail to put into practice that which we learn from God’s Word. James says that this failure deludes even our own selves (Jam. 1:22).
3. Is ours thorny soil? Here the seed is choked to death by the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). More seed is allowed to grow here than just the Word of God. Here we find a divided allegiance between this present world and eternity. Such division can result only in frustration and failure—we cannot serve two masters (Mat. 6:24). Here are people who place a priority on money, popularity, and earthly things while at the same time attempt to serve Christ—such is spiritual suicide. This condition can be corrected by focusing our attention on Christ and totally surrendering our lives to Him (Mat. 6:22-25, 33). This is a process requiring effort on our part; it does not happen accidentally or automatically. We must “seek the things that are above” and set our minds on those things (Col. 3:1-2).
4. Is ours good soil? This type of soil is the person who has done all that is possible of a preventative nature (i.e., desires to know the truth, prays, makes application to his daily life, and sets his priorities on Christ) and, in addition, studies God’s Word himself regularly, honestly, and diligently (2 Tim. 2:15).
Remembering that these soils are found both in and out of the church, which of these soils represents you today? What kind of soil are you becoming? Will you take the necessary steps to become good soil which “beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty”? (Mat. 13:23). To have a good harvest requires constant attention to the soil!