The Seed in the Four Kinds of Soil

Mark 4:1-20

J. R. Miller

Christ taught many of His great lessons in parables. He gave to the disciples this reason, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside, everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing—but never perceiving, and ever hearing—but never understanding;' otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!" The truth of Christ looks very different, as seen from within and from without. It has been compared to the stained-glass windows of a church. One who stands outside and looks at the windows, sees none of their rich beauty, and cannot understand their meaning. They look only like sheets of dull, patched glass. But let one stand within, and all is transformed. The lines, figures, lettering, and the shades and touches of fine coloring, appear in all their rich loveliness.

Just so, the truths of the gospel may not be attractive to those who are without. The men of the world see no beauty in them. To human wisdom—the gospel is foolishness. Many people sneer at the faith of Christians, as they talk about leaning on the unseen God and clinging to the promises and hopes of the Scriptures. But when one enters the family of God—all is changed. What seemed to be foolishness, appears now as the highest wisdom. Where there was no loveliness, there is now the loftiest beauty. What was laughed at, now seems to be worthy of high admiration and praise. Only those who have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and are faithfully following Him—can really understand the wonderful things of His love.

After Jesus had spoken this parable of the seed and the soils, His disciples sought an opportunity to have Him explain it to them. When we do not understand our Lord's teaching, the best thing we can do—is to go away to Him alone and ask Him to interpret it to us. None of His words are meant to be unexplainable. He wants us to understand what he says—and He will make it plain to us if we ask Him to do so. He has promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. That is what we need—to be guided into the truth. Many providences are really parables, things we cannot understand. They are not only dark and mysterious; but frequently, they are very hard to accept and hard to endure. These perplexing things, too, we may take to Christ, and He will make known to us in His own way and at His own time—their hidden meaning.

Christ is the great Sower. Men sometimes bring home from foreign countries, seeds of plants or trees which heretofore have not grown in our country. They plant these seeds, and in due time we have the fruits of other climates growing in our orchards. So Christ brings to this world—seeds of spiritual things, and plants them on the earth in men's hearts and lives. The words of the Bible are heavenly seeds. They are seeds, having in themselves a secret of life which makes them reproductive. They will grow when planted, and will produce trees of righteousness and harvests of holiness.

Christ is the great Sower—but we are all sowers, too. If we are Christ's friends, we should sow good seeds wherever we go. We may do this by speaking kindly words, words of sympathy, comfort, cheer, and hope. We may do it also by writing letters to those to whom we cannot speak the word they need. We may do it by scattering words of God, either in our own speech or in leaflets or books. We may do it by so living, that the good influence of our lives shall fall like seeds into the hearts of others.

Four kinds of SOIL are mentioned in this parable:

"Some people are like seed along the wayside, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them." The wayside soil is beaten down by passing feet. At first soft, the soil hardens more and more until it becomes almost like rock. So human hearts, at first tender and sensitive to every impression, are trodden over by a thousand influences as life goes on, and often grow like the beaten wayside.

One way in which human hearts are thus hardened, is by resisting good impressions. Another way is by life's ordinary experiences treading over them like passing feet. Still another way is by sinful habits. There is an old legend of a goblin horseman who galloped at night over men's fields, and wherever his feet touched—the soil was blasted, and nothing would ever grow on it again. Thus it is with the heart over which the heavy feet of lust, sensuality, greed, selfishness, and passion are allowed to tread. They beat it down into hardness, and at the same time leave a deadly blight upon it! When the seed falls on hardened soil—it lies uncovered, not sinking in, and the watchful, hungry birds soon come and pick it up. Just so does Satan do with good seed that falls upon hardened hearts—he comes and takes it away

There are others, whose heart are compared to rocky ground, "Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away." The seed sinks in through the shallow soil and soon shoots up—but withers. This class represents those whose religion is emotional. There is a superficial softness in their hearts which is easily and quickly touched. They begin the Christian life with a fervor which puts older Christians to the blush. If religion were all ease and comfort—they might get along; but there are temptations, crosses and persecutions, and these shallow emotional people cannot stand such hard experiences, and soon are found giving up the struggle and turning back. They have no root; that is, their religion is emotional, not principle. It lacks sincere faith in Christ and love to Him, and depends upon shallow feeling.

Another class is describe: "Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful." The soil had not been properly cleansed. The old roots had not been dug out. The ground was good enough, and the seed good; but the thorns grew too, as rankly as, even more rankly than, the wheat! What are some of these thorns? Jesus says they are "the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things." Cares are anxieties, distractions, and worries. Martha was in danger of having the good seed in her heart, choked out by her distracting thoughts concerning her household affairs.

Worry is always a peril. Many people have all the good of God's grace in them, choked and destroyed by frets and anxieties which they allow to get into their hearts. Many a businessman loses Christ—in anxiety about his business affairs. It is no wonder that there are so many warnings in the Bible against worry.

Then, as for the deceitfulness of riches—thousands of lives have been starved into ghostly spiritual leanness, by desire for wealth. The point to be kept in mind—is that the love of Christ in the heart and the Christian graces—are in danger of being choked out by other affections springing up in the same soil.

The seed on thorny ground is not altogether killed—but the growths are so sapped and dwarfed, that they bring no wheat to maturity. The wheat amid the thorns grows—but becomes pale and shriveled, yielding no good ripe wheat. So it is in the Christian life which the thorns are permitted to grow. There are fruits of the Spirit—but they are shriveled and feeble. Men and women may go on working in the church, teaching, preaching, praying, giving; but the life is not healthy and vigorous.

The lesson is the importance of the cultivation of the heart after the good seed has been sown in it. We need to keep our hearts with all diligence and to watch the very beginnings of evil in them. We need to, without remorse, cast out anything that threatens our piety. Sometimes God Himself does the weeding. He takes away the wealth that was choking the spiritual life. He lifts out of the bosom the earthly object that is absorbing all the heart's love. The process is painful—but the results are full of blessing.

The fourth kind of soil is the good soil: "Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown." The word is received with attention, thought, faith, and prayer. Thus it is kept in the heart, as rich soft soil receives the wheat seed. No birds can pick it away. It settles down deep into the life, no underlying rock hindering its rooting and growth. The soil is diligently watched, no thorn being allowed to spring up to choke out the golden wheat. Thus the good seed of the word has opportunity to grow and to bring forth fruit. The heavenly teachings that are received into the heart—reappear in the character, in the conduct, dispositions, act, spirit, and service.