Friday, October 24, 2014

New insight on the Parable of the Sower

I was reading Talmage’s Jesus the Christ yesterday and got some new insights from the parable of the sower.

If you remember, this parable is about the four different types of ground that the seeds fell on.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Mattew 13:19-23)

We often think of these different types of ground as different types of people and the way they react to hearing the gospel.  But this may be doing us a disservice.  How does it help us to read it that way?  I don’t think it does much for us except to give us a self-satisfied notion that we know what’s going on.

Another question – if a person is one particular type of ground, like a bad type, are they stuck that way forever?  And if a person is a good type of ground, are they forever safe?

I’m sure you can probably answer that question with me.  No; no one is stuck forever if they don’t want to be, or forever safe in spite of themselves.

This is when I realized what the true purpose of this parable is.  It’s to be used as a self-diagnosis tool for the Saints to help us test ourselves and realize where we are.   Because we’re not always going to be good ground all the time.  For whatever reason, we may find ourselves identifying with the weedy ground or stony ground or even the wayside ground.  (I know I have, at various times.)

The even cooler thing is we’re not stuck, if that happens because we should know enough about farming to realize that for each problematic type of ground, there is a solution for how to fix it.

If the ground on the wayside is trodden down and birds come and carry away the seeds, then clearly that ground has become terribly hardened.  It has to be softened up.  (Humility!  Gratitude!  And trials!)  If birds are carrying away the seeds, the seeds need to be held onto by the ground and buried.  (Treasure and ponder over the word instead of forgetting it.)

If the ground is stony with only a shallow covering of earth, then those stones need to be broken up (with humility) or carried away (like taking away bad traditions with good doctrine).  The seed has to be planted deeper for deeper roots to form (commitment). 

If the ground is weedy and choking the good seeds, then the weeds have to be removed (priorities have to be put straight).

If the ground is fruitful, but only giving 30- or 60-fold when 100-fold is desired, then there has to be more soil amendment (nourishing doctrine and desire) and more growth (deciding to do more to stretch oneself).

This parable really is for us to act on because Jesus can sow the word profusely, but we need to be prepared for it.  He can’t do that preparation for us. 


Rozy Lass said...

John Bytheway gives a great talk about this very parable called "Weed Your Brain, Grow Your Testimony." It's part of this first collection of cd's.

Michaela Stephens said...

Care to share anything from that that touched you?

Rozy Lass said...

He talks about the phrase we commonly use in the church about gaining a testimony, but Gain is a laundry detergent and a stock market term. He prefers the phrase "grow a testimony." Jesus teaches about the four kinds of soil and we are all one of those kinds. He describes each kind and what has to happen to make it good soil. Then he goes on to talk about Alma teaching about the seed that goes into the soil (the word of God) and how it grows; then he explains about the tree of life as seen in Lehi's vision. He links the three metaphors in a wonderfully understandable way. I've listened to the talk many times and always glean something more to ponder.

Michaela Stephens said...

Sounds like unifying the different plant-focused parables really enriches perspective. I like it when people can link things together well like that.

SueZan said...

I just wanted to say thank you for this insight. Both from you and from Rozy Lass and her suggestion to hear the Bytheway talk (which was awesome!). I am teaching about this parable tomorrow in Relief Society and I was thinking the same thing--about it being a parable where we are self-assured in our soil. But does it have to remain that way? No. Will it never change? No. The beautiful gardens of the world have taken a lot of patience, faith, and diligence. So if I don't like the soil, I need to change it. Thanks so much for this! :)

SueZan said...

Just wanted to say thank you to you and Rozy Lass for your insights on this topic. I'm teaching about this parable tomorrow in Relief Society and was having the same thoughts -- am I self assured or comfortable with my soil? Things change, weather changes, and my soil's value can change too. It's up to me to keep it healthy and strong. The most beautiful gardens and testimonies in the world require diligence, faith, and patience. They don't just happen on their own. That talk by John Bytheway was an awesome recommendation too. I really loved how he tied all the gardening scriptures together and talked about growing a testimony and weeding out the unimportant and dangerous things in life. Thank you for this!

Michaela Stephens said...

Glad to have helped, SueZan!