It would do me good to remember that God breathed life into a handful of dirt and called it “man.” I take myself too seriously sometimes. Jesus also called us “dirt” in the “Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13/Mark 4/Luke 8). But not all dirt has the same qualities.
Jesus shared this parable with a “great crowd” of people. He meant for each person who had gathered on that beach to consider what type of soil he/she was. Jesus broke them down into four types:
- Do you allow the unexplained mysteries of the Gospel to prevent your faith from taking hold, like seed that never penetrates the surface?
- Will your faith waiver when trials come and tear you free from your shallow roots among the rocks?
- Are you so caught up in your concern for worldly things that these “thorns” will choke the life out of your faith?
- Or are you so excited to have received the Good News that you go out and share it with others, like seed sown in good soil that bears much fruit?
It seems to me that our congregations (whether we live in Angola or the USA) are made up of all four kinds of soil – just like Jesus’ crowd on the beach. So the first question that we ought to ask ourselves – if we’re striving to be part of God’s Kingdom – is, “What kind of soil am I?”
But I think there’s a second crucial question implied in Jesus’ parable: ‘How can I better prepare myself to bear fruit like the good soil?”
If you told the Parable of the Sower to a group of subsistence farmers (in Angola or Ancient Palestine, for example), they might burst into laughter. “Who spends a week’s wages on seed and doesn’t first till the soil? He is either lazy or foolish!” Even the casual gardener knows you ought to remove the rocks and weeds before you plant the seed. And you never cast your seed on the walkway.
I confess that I have not always been “good soil.” Nor does my life reflect a “thorn-free,” well-tilled garden. My little patch of dirt is more of a mix of the four soil types.
Surely Jesus didn’t mean to reject those in his audience who weren’t serious disciples. Instead he invited them to a more robust faith with deeper roots. He challenged them to grow. His words ought to remind us that gardening requires constant attention. We till the soil, pull the weeds, and do all that we can so that our soil will produce a greater harvest.
If I want to be part of the Kingdom, then I need to work hard to uproot the distractions in my life. I don’t want the cares of this world to crowd out things of eternal consequence. I need to fortify my faith through prayer, Scripture, fellowship, and service, so that I’m ready for the trials that come. Following Christ won’t be easy, just because I received the seed.
We’re all just dirt, but God has planted a seed within us. As we seek to grow God’s kingdom, let us be diligent gardeners, so that we, and our fellow disciples, will bear much fruit.