If you’ve regularly attended church for a year or two, you’ve probably come across Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds. You know the one:
A farmer takes a bag of seeds and goes walking through his fields, scattering seeds wherever he goes. Some seeds fall on a path. They are immediately eaten by birds. Other seeds fall on rocky ground. They sprout, but the soil is shallow and the plants’ roots don’t go deep, so when the sun gets hot they wither and die. Still other seeds fall on ground filled with weeds. They, too, sprout. But the weeds are too strong. They choke out the seeds and they die. And some seeds fall on good, fertile soil. These seeds sprout and flourish into plants that eventually yield seeds of their own—thirty, sixty, or even one hundred times the original seed that took root.
Growing up, I always looked around my church’s congregation and thought, That’s amazing. Every person in this church is one of the ‘seeds’ that fell on fertile ground. And now we’re gathered all together to learn from each other in how we can be more bountiful.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
Would it surprise you to hear there’s a mistake in the story above? Can you spot it?
I didn’t, until a few months ago.
Try reading the text directly:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
(Mark 4:3-8, NLT)
Here’s the answer:
The seed that fell among weeds didn’t die. It stayed alive, but was unfruitful.
The idea that every Christian is someone who bears fruit is a lie.
We’re all familiar with the daily grind: that endless cycle of eating, dishes, chores, commuting, jobs, bills, laundry, cleaning and so on. These things are necessary. They take care of life’s fundamental necessities. Inject a few relationships, such as those with friends, family, and children, and life begins to feel meaningful.
But into the heart of each Christian, Jesus plants a tiny kernel of glory. That kernel recognizes the longing each human being has to be part of something bigger can’t be truly satisfied by cheering for a sports team, doing charity work, or pouring ourselves into our families. Our kernel of glory is drawn, like a magnet, to the glory of God.
As Christians, we can choose to water and nurture our kernels, or let them be choked out by urgent, but lesser, things.
I’m starting to wonder if perhaps the grind holds an implicit challenge. We can live our whole lives only answering the demands of the grind. We can content ourselves with this, and be happy in it.
What if the grind is meant to weed out those who would be satisfied with it from those who are not?
That’s essentially who these weedy Christians are, aren’t they? In His explanation of the parable, Jesus said that weedy Christians are those who are distracted by the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.
By contrast, seedy Christians desire more. They aren’t content with the endless cycle. Yes, they still fulfil their responsibilities. They still participate in the cycle. But that alone isn’t enough. They crave more, and that craving goes to the bedrock of who they are.
They hear the word of God and bear fruit, 30, 60 or 100 times. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control spring from them in abundance. They librally scatter the good news of Jesus. They don’t allow the grind to distract them from their passion. They don’t allow the weeds to choke their fruitfulness.
I think we probably all go through phases of weediness. The question is: where do we end up? Do our internal desires pull us out of weedy phases and back into seediness? Or, are we content with the cycle?
Don’t get me wrong, the things of the cycle can be fulfilling. They can bring immense joy. Relationships, especially, are what give life meaning.
But, if we desire it, there is a deeper meaning available. There is a meaning that lasts not only for this life but for all eternity. Sometimes, being seedy means risking things that are fundamental to the weedy.
The question is: who do we want to be? Seedy or weedy?
Will we push back, dream big, and not settle for anything less than glory? Or, will we content ourselves with feet remaining on the ground, and forget we’ve been given wings to soar above the clouds?