Soils of the Heart
When a great crowd was gathered, and people were coming to Jesus from every town, He told them this story: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. While he was planting, some seed fell by the road. People walked on the seed, and the birds ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it began to grow, it died because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorny weeds, but the weeds grew up with it and choked the good plants. And some seed fell on good ground and grew and made a hundred times more.”
As Jesus finished the story, He called out, “Let those with ears use them and listen! This is what the story means: The seed is God’s message. The seed that fell beside the road is like the people who hear God’s teaching, but the devil comes and takes it away from them so they cannot believe it and be saved. The seed that fell on rock is like those who hear God’s teaching and accept it gladly, but they don’t allow the teaching to go deep into their lives. They believe for a while, but when trouble comes, they give up. The seed that fell among the thorny weeds is like those who hear God’s teaching, but they let the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life keep them from growing and producing good fruit. And the seed that fell on the good ground is like those who hear God’s teaching with good, honest hearts and obey it and patiently produce good fruit. (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15)
In His story, Jesus talked about four different kinds of soil. Seed fell on each of them. But the outcome for each kind of soil was very different. Jesus explained that He was really talking about people, not farming. He said that there are basically four types of people. You can tell what kind of person you are by what you do when God’s Word—His seed—falls on your heart.
The hard walking path stands for one kind of person. What would happen if you took a bunch of seed and threw it on a sidewalk? Would that seed ever sprout? Would there ever be any plant at all? No. The seed would just sit there until some bird spotted it. Seed doesn’t penetrate a hard path.
A lot of people are like that path. It’s not like they hear God’s Word and understand it, but decide to do something different instead. The Word actually never makes an impact on people like that. It never touches anything inside of them. Probably the vast majority of people are hard like that path at least one time or another in their lives. The Word has no way to penetrate. They don’t care enough to let it into their hearts, so it doesn’t stay with them.
In Jesus’ story, the birds came and ate the seed. Birds are that way. If you put seed on the driveway, you’ll see flocks of birds in no time. A bird will even try to peck seed out of the lawn if it can. If you leave seed on the road in plain view, they’ll find it and eat it within minutes. It’s the same way with the devil. He’s God’s enemy. He hates God’s Word. If people don’t care enough to let the Word deep into their hearts, the devil will just snatch it from their minds right away. None of that seed will ever grow, because the listeners’ hearts are hard. They’ve got other things they care more about right now, so the Word has no effect. It never will make an impact unless they soften their hearts.
Now, the other three kinds of soil are different. They all respond to the seed, at least at first. The seed takes root a little bit and begins to germinate and grow. There is at least a baby plant there in each of those soils. Of the four different kinds of hearts that Jesus talked about, only one completely ignores the Word. Nothing at all happens when they hear it. It doesn’t take root at all. Only one of the soils was that hard. But two of the other soils were just as bad as the path, even though the seed looked like it was off to a good start!
Soil number two has some soft dirt, but it also has a lot of rocks. In Jesus’ story, what happened to the plant in rocky ground? Why didn’t it survive? It couldn’t get its roots deep enough to get water. When does water become especially important? Having deep roots is vital when the sun comes out. If it is going to be in the shade all the time, a plant might survive for quite a while without much water. But bright, hot sunlight will quickly wilt and eventually kill a plant that can’t get to a deeper water source.
Jesus was comparing the rocky soil to someone who gets excited when they hear the Word of God. It seems like the Word is springing to life, like the seed on that ground. But this type of person doesn’t handle the pressures of persecution and temptation. Something happens that makes life a little hard, and they give up. Although the seed they hear, God’s Word, is good, their hearts are rocky. Their roots don’t go deep enough to get to the Living Water that they need if they are going to survive and thrive during the tough times. Their faith in Jesus doesn’t go very deep. Maybe people at work or old friends or unsaved family members have started giving them a hard time for their faith. Maybe the devil has started tempting them with a certain sin. Whatever the exact reason, as soon as their situation gets a little difficult, they just quit. Their first reaction to hearing God’s Word seems good. The seed starts to grow, but it doesn’t last.
It’s important: make sure that your roots go deep and reach the Living Water that’s inside of Jesus’ heart. If you can’t get to that water, you won’t stand the test of “the heat of the day.”
Soil number three also has soft enough dirt to receive a seed, but it has thorns, too. What happens to a good plant surrounded by weeds? It gets choked. The good plant can’t get enough food from the soil because all the weeds are crowding against it.
Jesus said that the weeds stand for distractions. Some people just let their lives get too cluttered with other things. They hear the Word of God, and they like it. They mean to believe and obey it. They have good intentions. The Word begins to grow in their hearts, but there is just too much other stuff competing with it. It isn’t that these people ignore the Word of God. They find at least some place for it in their hearts, and it starts to grow there. But it gets choked out when their minds get too focused on life’s riches, worries, and pleasures. There’s just too much worrying about paying the bills, too much focus on sports or hobbies, too many thoughts about what they’re going to do and where they’re going to go. All the energy and passion and thoughts get soaked up by other stuff, so the Word doesn’t have room to grow. The weeds take over instead.
Of course people have responsibilities. And it’s not a sin to have fun. But it’s very important to watch your life and make sure that it is not getting too cluttered. You need to give lots of room to the Word of God. Give it plenty of space to grow! Make sure that you’re not spending all your time and energy and focus on other stuff—even good things—or else the only really important thing will get choked out!
It’s important that we keep our lives pretty simple, because our hearts can only handle so much stuff. It’s even more important to keep our thoughts and emotions simple and focused on Jesus and His Word. You just don’t have enough room in the garden of your heart for a thousand plants growing at once. Make sure that the Word of God is allowed to grow. Guard yourself against having a thousand things to do, a thousand things you’re always thinking about, a thousand shows you want to watch or sports you want to play or fun things you want to do or stories you want to read. Make sure you’ve got time protected for things that are important. It’s a decision only you can make, because it’s not just making space in your schedule—it’s making space in your thoughts!
Jesus said that three kinds of soil never produce a crop. Three kinds of hearts, in other words, don’t get any lasting benefit from hearing the Word of God. Some reject it, because the Word can’t penetrate their hearts any more than seeds can penetrate a hard path. Some give up, because they don’t let their roots go deep enough into Jesus, just like the plants on rocky soil didn’t get their roots down to the water. Those people quit, because they can’t handle the pressure of criticism or temptation. Still others have a good response at first, but they forget what’s important because they just get too busy with other things. Their hearts are like gardens full of weeds. The good plants just can’t compete.
Ah, but there’s also a fourth kind of soil! Jesus said that the good soil actually does produce a crop. The farmer harvests from the field a hundred times as much seed as fell on it to begin with. This soil stands for people who hear the Word of God and retain it. They look for ways to obey it. They patiently work at it. They don’t just get up after reading or listening to God’s Word and then go off and play, forgetting about it for the rest of the day.
You have a choice even now! Will you think about these things now and remember them off and on the rest of the day, planting them in your mind and talking to God about them regularly?
God, what do I need? What has to happen for me to have the kind of heart that’s good soil? What do I have to do? I want to be good soil. Please show me some things that will help me have that kind of heart. Show me how wonderful You are. Show me how much I need You. Highlight the things in my character that are wrong, so that I will be very aware of just how much I need You. I don’t want to be proud and ignore your Word. I don’t want to be shallow and drift through life playing games. I want a “good soil” heart.
Whoever you are, you aren’t too young to be talking to Jesus that way and asking for help. You’re deciding right now what kind of priorities you will have. What’s going to be most important to you? You are either going to make room in your heart, or you’re going to be hard or shallow or distracted. Those are decisions that only you can make.
The good heart hears the Word, takes hold of it, protects it, waters it, and prays over it. That’s what the good soil does. Those are the only kind of people who prosper in the long term. Hearing the Word of God means nothing by itself. It’s your response to God’s Word that counts. Choose to be good soil!