Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Scatterer

18 "Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." 

-Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV)

Above is Jesus' explanation of a the Parable of the Sower, a story he uses to describe how people respond to his teaching.  In most preaching I've heard on this section of the Bible, the emphasis has been on the different types of soil as different types of people that hear the Christian message.  A common observation is that the sower scatters the seed regardless of the quality of the soil, and we should do likewise, rather than attempting to pre-judge what someone's reaction will be.

That's a valuable point.  When I read this parable tonight, though, I saw another possible interpretation.  It's a new thought to me, but I can't imagine it's a new thought.

Let's shift the focus to the sower, the one scattering the seed.  What is he doing throwing seed on the walking path, or among rocks, or in patches of thorns?  That's sloppy farming.  Ideally, he should get all the seed into fertile soil.

Now, Jesus says the seed on the path symbolizes someone hearing the Word, but not understanding it.  Consider this: ever feel lost when someone tries to explain their religion?  Ever get utterly confused by Christianese words that obviously mean something to the person saying them, but not to you?

I'm wondering if this parable could be not just a reminder to scatter seed, but a guide on how to do it well.

If Christians don't preach in terms that people can understand, it's like throwing good seed on the walking path: ineffective.  If we lead people to become Christians, but don't aid them in deepening their faith afterwards, their faith will be in danger when life gets tough.  If we don't encourage new converts to really follow Jesus' teaching in day-to-day life, they'll be just as distracted and distraught by unhealthy desires as they were before they were Christians, if not more so.

Could be.

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