Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that
‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
I don’t have a lot to say about this parable that I didn’t already say in Matthew. But I would like to add a little, so I ask that first you read that post first by clicking here, otherwise this probably won’t make much sense to you.
In Matthew I talked about using this parable to learn how to be good Christians ourselves. But I think we should also consider how, as the sower (which we are called to be!), we can help those around us to be the seed sown on good soil. How can we keep Satan from taking the Word away from them? How can we help them form roots? How can we help them to either avoid the thorns or to remain strong in spite of them?
The easiest, in concept at least, is helping new believers or young believers to form roots. As a church community and as individuals we must help them to spend time in their Bibles, teach them how to read and understand their Bibles, and encourage them to join small groups. And then we MUST hold them accountable! Call them when they don’t show up for church and find out why. Chances are that if someone just talks to them, that’s all the encouragement they need to come back. Churches keep track of attendance and I KNOW they know when I’m not there, but if I miss a couple of weeks nobody ever calls me and asks about it. But even as individuals we can help. Become friends with the people in your small groups and check in on them. If you’re hanging out with them outside of church you can very easily encourage them to come back to church if they start fizzling out. We’re supposed to be a church community, and we need to do a better job at seeking out new members to help them be a part of that. They won’t just acclimate themselves. My last church had a program called “First Friends.” When you joined the church you were paired with a random First Friend, and it was that person’s job to make sure you found a small group or ministry to be a part of, to keep up with your attendance, and to contact you if the church hadn’t seen you in a while. Now, I don’t know how successful this program actually was, but I think it’s a fantastic idea with a lot of potential.
The thorns are much more complicated because everyone is different, and we have to be sensitive to their personal needs. But, again, encourage people going through tough times to keep coming to church and small groups. Make sure your church community is a comforting, non-judgmental place where they can feel safe. My mom stopped going to church when she got divorced because she thought everyone at church was whispering about it behind her back and thought they didn’t respect her anymore. How common of an occurrence is that? Just when she needed God the most she stopped seeking Him out because the people at church made her feel like she shouldn’t be there. That needs to stop. There is no hard and fast advice for how to comfort someone. Again, everyone is different. But I have been seeing so often articles saying things like, “Millennials hate to hear that God works everything out for good. It makes them mad.” Now, I couldn’t understand this because I am a Millennial, and I love this particular comforting cliche. (Goodness knows I quoted it back in the Matthew post!) It has helped me through a lot. But my husband says the problem is that they feel like the people saying it are just saying it to say something, and not really offering to listen and empathize with them. People feel, I think, when they bring a real problem in church, that others don’t really want to hear about it. So make sure when talking to a person in a thorny situation you listen more than you speak, and if you want to offer comforting words, only do so if they’re sincere and honest.
Satan taking the Word away from people is the most complicated of the three, simply because it happens for such a wide variety of reasons. I think the most universal things we can do are to treat everyone we encounter with love, and to do God’s good works in the world. By being good ambassador’s for Christ, hopefully we can avoid hardening the hearts of those we encounter.