Summary: A comparison of two farmers - why one is sad, and one is carefree.
A Sower Went Out
To Sow His Seed
I would like to compare two farmers, or sowers of seed, this morning. They are very different in their outlook. First let’s look at the one in our gospel lesson, Luke 8:4-15.
This man goes out to sow his seed, but he is not a very careful sower, is he? Some of his seeds land on the footpath, hard-packed by traffic, so it lays on the surface and becomes a feast for the birds. Doesn’t the sower know better than to throw good seed on the sidewalk?
He also threw seed on rocky soil. The hardpan rock absorbs the sun’s heat, so this seed quickly shoots a blade out of the soil, and things look great for a few days. But when the full heat of the sun bears down on it it withers because it has no depth of root. It makes a good beginning, but ends as quickly as it began. Doesn’t this sower know his field any better than to throw seeds where they will not grow?
Other seeds he scatters among thorn bushes. Why are thorn bushes in his field? They were put there on purpose to form a hedge around the field to keep animals and trespassers out. These seeds begin to grow among the thorns but they lose the battle for space and nutrients. Doesn’t the sower know better than to throw seed near the thorn bushes?
This sower throws his seed indiscriminately, as if he doesn’t care where it goes. Isn’t this wasteful? Shouldn’t he be more careful with precious seed?
There is another famous farmer in Psalm 126:5,6. This man goes forth "weeping, bearing precious seed," knowing that the seed he is throwing on the ground would feed his family for several months. He is trembling with fear of failure and hope of success. If his crop doesn’t come in, he and his family will have nothing to eat. It is a tremendous act of faith to throw kernels of grain on the ground where birds can eat them, or where the soil may simply refuse to grow them. Maybe they will begin to grow and locusts will eat them. Maybe there will be no rain. Maybe it’s best just to make bread from these kernels rather than plant them.
He may sow in tears, but he will reap in joy. If he doesn’t sow, he will not experience the joy of harvest. If he sows his seed, and tends his crop diligently, he will bring in his sheaves in their season.
The sower of Psalm 126 would not let one kernel of grain fall among thorn bushes, or on the footpath. He knew his land well, and would never think of planting precious seed in the rocky soil, whereas the sower in Jesus’ parable throws seed around promiscuously, like he’s got all the seed in the world: and this is why the disciples need to have the parable explained. No one sows seed like the sower of this parable, and therefore, the parable makes no sense to them.
Jesus is the sower in His parable, of course, and if we are patriotic subjects of His kingdom we should sow like Him, and spread the seed of His word wherever we go. The seed, Jesus says, is the word of God, which is inexhaustible. Remember the Doritos commercial where Jay Leno says, "Eat all you want: we’ll make more"? Regarding the word of God, I say, give it away, it will never run out. Throw it everywhere you go.
The Gideons, for instance, are promiscuous sowers of seed, setting a good example for us. They leave Bibles everywhere; hotel rooms, hospitals, bus stations, supermarkets, you name it. They hand them out to people they meet all the time. In some cases people have picked up Bibles off the ground that others have thrown away, and the seed bore fruit in their lives. So we should never worry that we are wasting the word of God, whether we are handing out Bibles or quoting Scripture.
True, some of the seed we will sow will fall on the sidewalk, and bear no fruit. So? Jesus Himself throws seed around indiscriminately, so that some of it lands on hard-packed soil and amounts to nothing. Some of it lands on shallow soil, and some among thorns. Shouldn’t we be like Him though, and do the same? What happens to the seeds that fall on good soil will more than making up for what lands by the wayside.
So the first application of the parable is that we should not care where we put the word of God. It will have its intended effect wherever God wants it to. Our job is just to be obedient sowers. If the birds, the weather, and the weeds waste some of the seed, so be it. There is no shortage of it, so we should not be stingy with it. There is good soil right next to the thorns, the sidewalk, and the shallow soil. If we are careful to avoid what we think is bad soil, we may unwittingly neglect good soil.