Diligent Farmer

May 25, 2022
With spring in full swing around us, it's easy for our minds to turn to the parables of Jesus. So many of them are agricultural in nature. As the tractors roar around me, my mind went to the parable of the sower. My farm neighbors are pretty diligent, tending and preparing the ground, giving the seed the protection and conditions it needs to yield maximum returns for their labor. But how diligent was our farmer/owner in the parable?

The first group of seed fell by the wayside-- on the path or road. Every good farmer works all the ground he can, which would be quite close to the path. When he casts his seed, some will inevitably fall on the hard ground on or near the path. Some will grow, most will be snatched away by the waiting birds. Since he was casting seed by hand, it was unavoidable that the seed would fall there, but there was a chance that he could get all the way to his boundaries and hope for some yield. We all have some hard ground that's just not ready to receive the seed or yield to its roots. Even the hardest ground can become receptive, but maybe not right now. He can work the ground right up to the walkway, softening the soil more and more every year. Eventually, it becomes receptive.

Then some of the seed fell on stony ground. Now, that was his fault, to some degree. Good farmers walk their land before and after the harvest, looking for areas that need tending. He would have known that shallow seedbeds lead to a withered crop. The sun dries it to parched patches of barren soil shortly after germination. Back then, it was back-breaking work, picking up rocks, digging up the larger stones, carting them away. It's not uncommon for older farms today to have piles of such stones at the corner of some field, and they're added to from time to time as the machinery drags up another one. The field may have a deep level of rock with only shallow soil coverage, but one must free as much land as possible from that stony grip. Hardness of heart can be a long, drawn-out, draining job to break up and cart away. Not everyone chooses to start that process just for that reason. Their spiritual life will wither in the first hot wind of adversity or persecution.

And it seems he wasn't too enthusiastic about weed control, either. Some of his seed landed in the weeds that proceeded to choke out the desired plants. The harvest from that area would be pretty small. Weeds don't only compete with the plants for available moisture and nutrients, some of them actually produce a toxin that prevents other types of plants from growing near it to prevent competition. The seed fell among weeds, which indicates that the weeds were already there. If he had rooted out those life-draining weeds before, it would have given the seed a chance to become established before the weeds sprouted. The problem with weeds is that even when removed, they come back. Their seeds come back easily and naturally, spread by wind or animals, even sometimes by something as seemingly inconsequential as a small piece of root left behind. Weeds are in our lives, but we can't give up to them or the whole field will soon be over-run. Attention- draining distractions come daily, hourly, moment by moment. The battle never ends. We can't let our guard down even for a minute or we'll find our harvests choked and poisoned out of existence. Jesus never gave us the option of bearing no fruit. It's up to us to say “No.”

Jesus used this parable to teach about the different types of people hearing the Word, but the same principles can be applied to the individual. We are all this field, and we all have the same struggles and unproductive areas Jesus addressed. Our hearts struggle against the hard, unyielding areas, the tendency toward shallowness, and the thousands of daily distractions that derail even the best of intentions we might have. That is why we were given the Word and Holy Spirit. They will teach, lead, and guild so that they can provide for us the antidote to any perceived inadequacies we face as we tend our fields.