Today’s passage is Luke 8:1-15:
8 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said,“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, butas they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
For weeks Jesus has been traveling throughout the land with his twelve disciples. Now He speaks to yet another crowd, this time in a parable. While Jesus speaks in parables often, He does not explicitly explain many. Yet, when asked to give detail to this story of the sower and the seed, Jesus acquiesces.
The way I see it, this parable outlines four types of faith.
- Apathetic faith
- Selfish faith
- Material faith
- Devoted faith
The first – a faith where the seed fell upon the path, only to be trampled on and eaten by the birds. Like an attempt to plant a flower on a cement walkway, this seed never had a chance. This faith never took root – it never even reached the soil. It was trampled because it was weak and it was eaten because it had nothing to ground it. This faith is apathetic. It is present because it exists, but it sits idly on the sidewalk. It blows in the wind, saturates itself with the rain, and soaks up the sun. But it soon disappears despite the elements, because it was never meant to last. It was never meant to have meaning – just to exist for the sake of existing, a quiet and temporary passenger along for an unknown ride.
This kind of faith, or lack thereof, permeates today’s society. It thrives in the ideology of:“If I live a good life and I do the best I can and I don’t hurt anyone, then I’m fine. I’m a good person after all. Christianity has some good lessons and good morals and good values, so if I try to live out some of those I’m on track. God loves me after all, so no matter what I do, I’m fine.”
This is apathetic faith. In this faith, one is removing herself from the consequences of her actions – with this creed, her responsibility is to the world and not to God. Thus, she thinks, if she measures up fine by the world’s fluid standards, then of course she’ll measure up to God’s. But in Romans 12:2 Jesus says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will” (NIV). In apathetic faith, there is no attempt to test and approve God’s will, and as a result the stagnant faith that once was hopeful is devoured in a swift gulp.
The second – a faith where the seed fell upon the rocky ground, where it grew up to die from lack of nutrients. Landing upon land of temporary promise, this seed sprouts quickly, desperately reaching upwards towards the heavens and straining to see the sun, as it frantically stores water to nourish itself. So focused on its climb, so desperate to live the good life, this seed demands more than its feeble foundation can support and soon withers in the breeze.
This is selfish faith, thriving in the belief that: “If only I pray enough, if I serve enough, if I do enough good works – God will bless me and I will live a full and prosperous life.” This faith misses the point – the foundation of this faith is wrong. This faith is me-centered, not Christ-centered. It looks hopeful in the beginning, manifesting itself in prayer and good works. We read Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Christ promises so much to us when we serve him, and we want that.
But truly seeking Christ is an act of selfless service to the Savior who sacrificed himself on behalf of his creation. Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Truly seeking Christ is not asking what I can get from Him, but rather how I can serve Him, how I can worship Him, how I can thank Him – ultimately, how I can give up my life for Him. We aren’t called to be “good” Christians. We are called to be servants of Christ. We are called to give up ourselves – the opposite of selfishness.
The third – a faith where the seed fell among thorns, growing, growing, growing, only to be stunted and choked to death. This seed burrows itself in the soil. Its stalk grows strong, nutrients flow freely through its veins. Buds begin to form, signaling the promise of gorgeous flowers. Obsessed with its beauty, this seed waves brilliantly in the breeze, only to become tangled in the thorns that surround it. Swollen with pride, it ignores each thorn’s deflating pierce, finally choking under the pressure of its surroundings.
This is material faith. This faith believes, “If only I have more money, then I’ll be happy. Once I have a significant other, then I’ll be happy. As soon as I get a bigger house, then I’ll be happy. If only I go on more vacations, for sure I’ll be happier.” Those who subscribe to this faith may recognize God’s presence and his blessings in their life – and indeed there may be many to acknowledge– but soon their attention turns away from God. Instead of worshiping the creator of all things one begins to worship his creations, deriving happiness and fulfillment not from the love of Christ but from the presence of material possessions. The true identity of this faith is obsessed with adorning itself in worldly jewels, not building itself up in the armor of God. But Matthew 8:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In material faith, one’s heart is bound to the temporary treasures of the world and not the eternal treasure of Christ.
The fourth – a faith where the seed fell on good soil, to grow and be nourished and yield abundant crop. A small kernel slowly and deliberately burrows deep into the earth, its roots spreading wide. The seasons come and pass, and yet it consistently grows, soaking up the moisture within its strong foundation and bringing new life into the world around it. Beautifully it buds, each year more brilliantly than the last, continually stronger and unshaken by the storms. Standing tall, it knows its worth and lives to share that worth and beauty.
This is dedicated faith. This is a faith established to last and nourished to survive even the toughest trials. This is faith with Christ at the center, a faith that says, “I am nothing without my Savior and to Him I owe it all. In Him alone I stand strong, in Him alone I achieve fulfillment.” Living with this faith, one recognizes the words of Isaiah 58:11: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden; like a spring whose waters never fail.”
When placing God at the center of our lives, we remove ourselves from the pedestal. Instead of grounding our lives in what is easy, what we desire, or what we have, we place our trust in the One who gives us life – both now and for forever. And when we seek a relationship with Him, he will guide our way. James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” And James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Just as the seed which fell among the fertile soil, we should seek this fertile foundation for our lives and ask ourselves now: where are my feet planted?
Brooke Dickens ’16 lives in Cabot House is a staff writer for the Ichthus.