The Four Soils
Chan Gin Kai
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” (Luke 8:4-8)
The ‘Parable of the Sower’ can very aptly be renamed the ‘Parable of the Four Soils’. The former name focuses on God who plants the seed in every one of our hearts. He shows no favouritism, and wants everyone to be saved. The latter name focuses on how each of us responds to God’s word.
The Path is where the soil has been compacted and hardened by constant walking on by people. Any seed that is thrown on the path will be trodden on or kicked away. Or birds may just swoop in and eat them. Jesus explained, “Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:12)
Our hearts may get hardened after been trodden upon by others over a long time. The fact is we live in a cruel world. We receive more criticisms than encouragements, more bad news than good ones. We don’t often receive kindness, and sometimes get backstabbed as recompense for our goodwill. We become untrusting towards people, and hardened towards God.
If our hearts are hardened, it becomes easy for Satan to cast doubts about God and get us to turn against Him. This parable doesn’t only apply to people who hear the word of God for the first time, but to all of us Christians too. Our hearts can still get hardened and Satan can still take away God’s words from our hearts.
People will tread on us, but let’s not get hardened towards God.
The Rocky Ground
The Rocky Ground has a thin layer of soil, or pockets of soil in between the rocks. A seed that falls on the little bit of soil is able to grow at first, but unable to take root. Jesus elaborated, “Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” (Luke 8:13)
Receiving Christ with zeal and joy is easy. The message of God’s love is touching, and unmerited salvation despite our unworthiness is amazing news. We enjoy God’s blessings and the community we have in church. But joy in Christ is not an indication of deep-rooted faith.
Times of testing will come. We may be persecuted for our faith. Friends may disappoint us and people in church hurt us. Sickness and death may strike people close to us. We may be sabotaged at work or unfairly treated. We pray for deliverance and wonder why God doesn’t listen.
Bad things will happen to us and we will be tested, but if we develop deeper faith, we can stay faithful to God.
The Thorns grow on fertile ground, and the seed that falls amidst the thorns share the same nutrients too. Naturally, the seed grows quickly, but so do the thorns. Jesus explained, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)
Just as our faith will grow, distractions in life grow too. It is not just the bad things that distract us; good things do that too. Blessings may lull us into complacency.
Perhaps you have a rewarding job that gives you more satisfaction than your walk with God. Maybe you have a boss that appreciates your abilities more than your church leader does. You love your wife and kids and want to devote as much time as possible to them. The material things you can afford become more important than the intangible blessings that you do not see. Blessings become curses when they choke us up.
We grumble when we feel God hasn’t blessed us, and we get distracted when God does. Let’s mature in Christ and learn not to be distracted from God.
The Good Soil
The Good Soil is what all of us should aspire to be. Jesus elaborated, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15)
The kind of heart that Jesus described as “noble and good” is the heart that retains his words and perseveres. We mustn’t simply hear God’s words; we have to retain them. We cannot give up on God when bad things happen or forget about God when blessings flow. Instead, we have to persevere in our walk with God.
The fact that Jesus mentioned that perseverance is required should be warning enough for us. We’ll be naïve if we think Christianity is easy. We’ll be silly if we think solutions come fast. But it'll all prove worthwhile. The reward for our faith will be “a hundred times more than was sown.”
It'll be wrong to take a fatalistic view and think that the kind of heart we have is what we’re born with or what circumstances have moulded us to become. The question is not “What kind of soil am I?” Instead, we should ask ourselves, “What kind of soil do I want to be?”
We do have a choice. I want to be the good soil. Let’s pray for each other and help each other to have noble and good hearts.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".