S. Luke 8. 4 WHEN much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell by the way-side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock, and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe, and be saved. They on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
There is one way in which I am extremely Christlike. Just as our Savior cursed the fig tree, and it immediately withered and died, so I have an almost miraculous ability to kill plants. I'm told philodendra are among the hardiest and easiest to care for plants -- and yet I've murdered a couple. Yet even I, unlike the sower in today's parable, know that one should be careful where one plants -- I would never plant on a sidewalk, or in a thorn-patch, or in rocky soil.
I often hear this lesson interpreted such as to admonish people to make certain that they make themselves good soil, and avoid being in one of the other categories that ultimately does not bear fruit. And, certainly, that is a legitimate interpretation. But I wonder, if we look a little deeper, what it means that the sower is so careless as to distribute the seed so recklessly? (And yields being lower in that time, one would think farmers would be even more careful about planting seed only where it was likely to grow and bear fruit.) This recklessness is meant to bear witness to the reckless distribution of God's grace to all, without regard to merit.
And we should realize that we all, in different parts of our lives, fall into the various categories. There are parts of our lives that are good soil, bearing abundant fruit. There are parts of our lives that are choked with the cares and riches of the world -- not bad things in and of themselves, but things that, not put into their proper place, can choke God's grace in areas of our lives. Then there are the areas of temptation to sin that we allow ourselves to succumb to and which cause the grace to wither and die. And there are those parts of our lives that are so hardened that the seeds of God's grace become birdseed instead.
But I'm not so sure that we are always immediately able to discern which areas are which -- God's grace may bear fruit in ways in which we are completely unaware. A life filled with the grace of God is not necessarily a religious life -- and religious exercises may become opportunities for pride and sin, if we are not careful.
I hope this Lent to take time to reflect on my life and to listen to the Spirit to learn more truly where the good soil, the thorns, the rocks, and the hardened paths in my life are -- and I pray that others may do so as well.