It’s easy to assume that when Jesus says something, he’s talking to or about somebody else. In fact, I’m beginning to think that not only is it easy, it’s actually quite natural. We’ve all had the experience of reading Scripture and immediately going in our minds to “__________ should really read this!”.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the four soils in Matthew 13. In this word picture Jesus describes a farmer who goes to sow seed, which falls onto four distinct types of soil, only one of which is capable of accepting the seed and producing a harvest. Sara and I are currently working on a garden of our own, so we’re learning a little bit about how to prepare soil, and like any good farmer, we’re hoping for a great harvest! No doubt, in their time, some of the people hearing Jesus describe these four soil types could remember seeds they had sown which never took root.
Later, Jesus explains that the soils actually represent different types of people, and how they accept the message of the kingdom that He was proclaiming. I’ve always understood this parable to be Jesus talking about people who are responding to His message for the first time. This is most definitely one of those passages that I read with eyes slightly gazed over, assuming Jesus is talking about somebody other than me. But recently, His description of the third soil has been sinking into my heart as a message that I need to heed:
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
As a bi-vocational church planter, I find myself with a foot in two worlds on most days. With one foot, I hope to daily step into the mission of Jesus to heal the world, make disciples, and form a family that provides a foretaste of what the renewed creation has in store. With the other foot, I find myself knee deep in the daily struggle to perform well at work, make quota, move up the ladder, and provide for my family. That second foot often feels pulled deeper and deeper into the quicksand of anxiety and the pursuit of money, medical benefits, and a 401k that I mostly feel awkwardly lopsided and unable to gain a sure footing with my other foot.
Jesus is talking to me.
I am the soil in which a seed has been planted, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
That is not the soil that I want to most accurately describe me. I want to be the fourth soil:
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
The good news is that soil can be changed. When Sara and I decided to resurrect the stale garden bed outside our apartment, our first move was to mix compost into the unfruitful soil to change it’s characteristics and prepare it for planting. As we speak, there is a bounty of produce breaking through the soil, on it’s way to a full fledged harvest.
The question for me, is what compost needs to be mixed into my life to move me from unfruitful soil to soil that produces a harvest, a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown?
Here’s a few compost mixes I’m reflecting on:
- Obedience to what Jesus says to do. We live in a church culture that celebrates knowledge of Scripture without obedience. In the New Testament, the maturity of a believer is measured by how much they obey Jesus, not by how much they know about Jesus. For me, there are things that Jesus has instructed us to do that I am not doing. I will start doing them.
- Improving my financial literacy. I know this one sounds antithetical to not worrying about money, but it’s actually the road to being less worried. With a low financial literacy, the only solution to a lack of money seems to be to make more money. With an improved understanding of cash flow and planning, living below your means, whatever those means happen to be at any given time, is much less anxiety inducing.
- Go to work everyday to serve others. In sales, it can seem that everything in your workplace is there to serve you, and your paycheck. What I and the people around me do everyday directly affects my income. I’m guilty of seeing how others can be beneficial to me instead of seeking to serve them. I’ll begin to look for how I can be of service to those around me and their needs.
What about you?
In what ways do you identify with being unfruitful soil?
What are other “compost mixes” that will help us to all be fruitful soil?
How do we start to measure spiritual maturity by obedience to Jesus instead of knowledge about Jesus?
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