[This is a guest post from Norine Shaivitz.]
It seems like a waste of seed to throw it on a walking path that’s frequented by birds. I bet a real farmer wouldn’t throw seeds where the ground is rocky or full of weeds either.
That was the thought that ran through our minds as my husband and I pondered the Gospel reading today, the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9).
If it shows you I thought about it a lot, I actually decided to do some math. I don’t go out of my way to do math, so I hope my nine-year old daughter’s math teacher is proud. It sounds like one of the word problems in her math workbook:
If you need about 45 pounds of wheat seeds for an acre of farm land and the average farm is 441 acres, how much money will the average farmer spend if wheat seeds are $5.70 per pound?*
I’ll save you the multiplying and tell you my calculator came up with $113,116.50.
Seeds cost a lot just for the good ground. So why would a farmer waste money tossing additional seeds on places we all know the seeds wouldn’t grow?
Jesus makes a point to say the sower in the story broadcast seeds in four different places – the path where birds would steal the seeds away before they ever hit the ground, the rocky soil where the seeds would sprout but quickly dry up, the thorny place where new seedlings would be choked out and the good soil, well-tilled, where fruit would be 30-, 60- and 100-fold.
And later He tells us the seeds aren’t really seeds. They are messages of the Good News of salvation (Matthew 13:18-23).
I think for many of us, we don’t want to spread the story of Jesus where we judge the soil of the recipient’s heart to be the path, rocky or thorny. If we decide to share the story of Jesus in our lives at all, it’s easier to wait until we are in a safe place, with hearts we judge as already well-tilled and ready.
But I think Jesus knows we aren’t very good at judging. I think it’s part of the reason He told us not to judge (Matthew 7:1).
How do we know whether someone is ready to hear the Gospel? How can you tell? Is it by the person’s demeanor? Is it by the clothing? Is it the haircut? Is it by the kind of car the person drives? Is it by the bumper stickers on that car? The Lord knows we are prone to look at the outside, while He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Would you share the story of Jesus with a guy who liked to steal stuff for no reason, had frequent contact with women outside of marriage and wasn’t very nice to his mom? He sounds like a path if I ever heard of one. And his mom would tell you he was a path too until the day he listened to Bishop Ambrose preach. Then he converted and became Augustine, bishop, philosopher and saint. Saint Augustine of Good Soil is still yielding fruit for the Lord 1,500 years later.
So many stories of the saints turned out like that. How many more people would be saints if we would just have the courage to speak?
It’s so tempting in my mind to keep my talk of Jesus to people I already know like Him. I hate rejection for any reason, especially for the things closest to my heart. But Jesus didn’t say to only spread the “seeds” on the “good soil.” He said to cast it everywhere. And that way, Jesus can be in charge of tilling. Maybe the hearts that are on the path and full of birds, or are rocky or thorny now, will be ready and well-tilled by the time we get the courage to speak.
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence – 1 Peter 3:15-16