The Parable Of The Sower

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

Jesus was always teaching. On this particular day His pulpit was a fishing boat, from which He spoke to the multitudes standing on the shore. Perhaps there was a sower somewhere in sight, walking on his field, carrying his bag of grain and slinging his seed broadcast. The sight may have suggested the parable.

Christ Himself is the great Sower, but we all are sowers — sowers of something. Not all who sow scatter good see; there are sowers of evil as well as of good. We should take heed what we sow, for we shall gather the harvest into our own bosom at the last. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” — that, and not something else (Gal. 6:7).

In the parable the seed is good — it is the word of God. The soil likewise is good — it is all alike, in the same field. The difference is in the condition of the soil.

The first thing that strikes us in reading the parable is the great amount of waste of good there seems to be in the world. On three parts of the soil nothing came to harvest. We think of the enormous waste there is in the Lord’s work, in the precious seed of Divine truth which is scattered in the world. What comes of all the sermons, of all good teaching, of the wholesome words spoken in people’s ears in conversation, of wise sayings in books? What waste of effort there is whenever ever men and women try to do good! Yet we must not be discouraged or hindered in our sowing. We should go on scattering the good seek everywhere, whether it all grows to ripeness or not. Even the seed that seems to fail may do good in some way other than we intended and thus not be altogether lost.

What though the seed be cast by the wayside
And the birds take it—yet the birds are fed.

The wayside is too hard to take in the seed that falls upon it. There are many lives that are rendered incapable of fruitfulness in the same way. They are trodden down by passing feet. Too many people let their hearts become like an open common. They have no fence about them. They shut nothing out. They read all sorts of books, have all kinds of companions, and allow all manner of vagrant thoughts to troop over the fields. The result is that the hearts, once tender and sensitive to every good influence, become impervious to impressions. They feel nothing. They sit in church, and the hymns, the Scripture word and exhortations, the appeals and the prayers fall upon their ears, but are not even heard. Or, of they are heard, they are not taken into the mind or heart, but lie on the surface.

“The birds came.” The birds always follow the sower, and when a seed lies within sight they pick it up. The wicked one “snatcheth away that which hath been sown.” So nothing comes of the seed which falls on the trodden road.

The lesson at this point is very practical. It teaches our responsibility for the receiving of the truth which touches our life, in whatever way it is brought to us. When we read or listen we should let the word into our heart. We should give attention to it. We should see that it is fixed in our memory. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart,” said an old psalm writer (Ps.119:11). “Give God a chance… His seed gets no fair opportunity in a life which is like a trafficking highroad.”

The third piece of soil in which the seed fell was preoccupied by thorns whose roots never had been altogether extirpated. The soil was neither hard nor shallow, but it was too full. The seed began to grow, but other things were growing alongside of it, and these, being more rank than the wheat and growing faster, choked it out.

Jesus tells us what these thorns of the parable stand for. They are the cares, riches and pleasures of this world. Cares are worries, frets, and distractions. Many people seem almost to enjoy worrying. But worries are among the thorns which crowd out the good. Martha is an illustration of the danger of care (see Luke 10:40, 41). There are plenty of modern examples, however, and we scarcely need to recall such an ancient case as hers.

Riches, too, are thorns which often choke out the good in people’s lives. One may be rich and his heart yet remain tender and full of the sweetest and best things. But when the love of money gets into a heart it crowds out the love of God and the love of man and all beautiful things. Judas is a fearful example. The story of Demas also illustrates the same danger. A good man said to a friend: “If you ever see me beginning to get rich, pray for my soul.”

The pleasures of the world are also thorns which crowd out the good. It is well to have amusements, but we must guard lest they come to possess our heart. We are not to live to have pleasures; we are to have pleasures rather only to help us to live.

The fourth piece of soil was altogether good. It was neither trodden down, nor shallow, nor thorny; it was deep plowed and clean. Into it the seed fell and sank and grew without hindrance. By and by a great harvest waved on the field.

This is the ideal for all good farming. The farmer must have his field in condition to receive the seed and to give it a chance to grow. That is all the good seed needs. This is the ideal, too, for all hearing of the word of God. If only we give it a fair chance in our life it will yield rich blessing.