Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Sower.

"A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the footpath, where it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some seed fell on rock and, after coming up, withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell in among thistles, and the thistles grew up with it and choked it. And some of the seed fell into good soil, and grew, and yielded a hundred-fold ...

...The seed is the word of God. Those along the footpath are the men who hear it, and then the devil comes and carries off the word from their hearts for fear they should believe and be saved. The seed sown on rock stands for those who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but have no root; they are believers for a while, but in the time of testing they desert. That which fell among the thistles represents those who hear, but their further growth is choked by cares and wealth and the pleasures of life, and they bring nothing to maturity. But the seed in good soil represents those who bring a good and honest heart to the hearing of the word, hold it fast, and by their perseverance yield a harvest."

Luke 8: 5-8, 11-16.

Some things of interest I noticed about this parable.

The first group of people seem to lack a choice as to whether they get to keep the word or not. They hear it, but then the devil removes it, so that they can't believe. Do they want the devil to remove it? And why is the devil associated with birds, in terms of the parable?

The latter group, prior to believing, apparently already have a good and honest heart, and because they have that good and honest heart, they hear the word, hold to it, and then produce some great fruit. How would this be reconciled with the idea that we're all bad people? Or that we can't have a good heart prior to the intercession of Jesus?

It's also rather work-based. The last group holds fast to the word, and because they persevere, they produce a harvest. Wouldn't holding to the word entail effort on their part? Though it might depend on what the 'word' is that Jesus is referring to. 'Hold to it fast' could also refer to faith, but then why not simply say faith?

The word is also connected with growth. It originally starts as a seed, and then must grow. There has to be some sort of end result. It's not just a matter of believing, it's a matter of what is produced.


SocietyVs said...

Great points all around OSS! I like the way you are able to find the things people seem to miss - and then articulate them - that's a gift if anything.

OneSmallStep said...


I try. :)

Andrew said...

It is interesting how much emphasis (and the other NT writers for that matter)put on works. The Salt Lake Valley churches are almost Hyper-grace in reaction to the LDS church whom they feel are all about "works".

If one can take salvation out of an after life context and rather, see it is saving one's "soul" (our heart, mind, life) then I think all of the parables start to look different. All of the works talked about then have a context and a purpose. And as you seem to imply, the people wanting the word and having good hearts makes more sense in that context than it does if this is all about getting to heaven.

OneSmallStep said...


The reaction to any sort of mention of works has always seemed extreme to me. As you said, there is a huge emphasis placed on works. If we only had the gospels to go by, would the idea of "grace alone" be espoused as much? Especially if going by something like the sheep/goats parable? Or the Samaritan? Or the peacekeepers, and the meek?

My impression about works saving was that I do think they are accounted for when a life is weighed. Not in the sense of merit, but that the works you do should be an example of the type of person you are on the inside. If you are a naturally kind or compassionate person, we would see that in one's works and manners. If one is cruel, we'll see that in their behavior.

Not only that, but we often hear that Christians who are cruel are not in fact true Christians. They believe all the right things, yet are clearly not saved because of behavior. So wouldn't this mean that someone who is of both orthodox belief and does good works would get saved because of both? That good works do in fact have some sort of merit?

I mostly see Paul's focus on grace so that people don't do good works in order to receive a reward, or be able to boast. Rather, the good works are done because they're the right thing to do. It's just as soon as the good works become a criteria for something, the motivation for such works can become polluted.

Pastor Bob said...

One question you do not mention is whether the analogical interpretation of the parable in the synoptic gospels is the correct one. Many scholars believe the interpretation is a later addition.

Isn't it possible that Jesus meant something different than the interpretation?

A good book on the subject is Jeremias' The Parables. (I think that's the title. He says that all the parables have one central message and that to interpret them analogically is to miss the point of the parable. Personally I disagree with him about some parables like this one.

The real point I would make is that we have to be very careful in deciding what each soil represents as well as the sower and the seed.

OneSmallStep said...

Hi, Pastor Bob.

Long time, no comment. :)

I didn't address that question because until you commented, I wasn't aware that many scholars held that the interpretation was a later addition. So it would be possible that Jesus meant something other than the interpretation.

However, if just going based on the parable itself, the soil is called "good soil." So that would lead to asking is it good soil because it was able to produce a harvest? As in, not morally "good" but "good" in that it could produce, as opposed to the non-producing soils.

Or good as a quality we're often told we lack prior to God's intervention?

Anonymous said...

"I mostly see Paul's focus on grace so that people don't do good works in order to receive a reward, or be able to boast. Rather, the good works are done because they're the right thing to do" (OSS)


Jesus mentions the capabilities of all of us to do these things enough times that to confuse works with possibly attaining something is understandable - we are gaining something in the doing - a new way of doing things. Practice makes perfect I once heard - in this case - screw perfection - we just need to develop values that mean something - and we do that by 'doing' - not just believing it to be true.

That's the real problem with the Jesus subsitution business in churches - he becomes everything and you become this what God actually wants? Parables like the one's mentioned seem to fly in the face of that understanding - because we need to develop good soil (and believe - that takes hard work, toil, and years to do - ask a farmer about the soil business).

OneSmallStep said...


**That's the real problem with the Jesus subsitution business in churches - he becomes everything and you become this what God actually wants?**

It would also fly in the face of the idea that God so loved the world that He sent His own Son ... to what? If Jesus takes our place, and Jesus perfectly fufills the Law so that when we screw up, God sees Jesus in our place, then how much of "us" is God actually seeing?

Not only that, if God has to see perfection at all times, then how can God see us or help us grow? IN order to grow, we'd have to start from immature and then become mature, which would mean seeing some less than perfect moments.

Andrew said...

I heard a talk by Brian Mclaren
where he stated that he feels we misconstrue "be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect". We make it into a legal statement, but in the context it was in (beatitudes, loving enemies) it works better as a description of how to treat others.

Jesus statement calls us to a perfection that is generous to those who aren't so perfect. Follow God's example who, in his perfection, chooses to be patient and nurturing. Therefore, as we grow, we are to "pay it forward", rather than use our growing position as a place of judgment. Be perfect the way God is... patiently.

OneSmallStep said...


**We make it into a legal statement, but in the context it was in (beatitudes, loving enemies) it works better as a description of how to treat others.**

I read one of Greg Boyd's books, which was called something like "Debate with a Skeptic" or "Answers for a Skeptic." In it, he and his father exchanged letters, with his father (the skeptic) presenting questions and Greg answering them.

One of the things Greg mentioned about the SErmon on the Mount was that it was essentially meant to show us how bad we were -- we couldn't be perfect, which was the requirement of God.

I was left wondering if Greg and I were reading the same Bible. Since then, I've seen others use "Be ye therefore perfect ..." as a way to show that we all need a Savior.

But part of my confusion stemmed from the fact that none of the listeners responded that way. No one cried out that they couldn't do it, those things were impossible, they were all doomed. Instead, the crowd marveled. They seemed to react very positively towards a message that supposedly told them how awful they all were.

I always read the perfect statement as a way of telling us how to behave like God. If we truly wanted to take part in that kingdom, truly wanted to have God in our lives, that was a way to start.

Andrew said...

I was taught the beatitudes that way, here is this impossible list that is going to make you so guilty for failing that having Christ forgive you is going to be this huge relief.

Instead, in the past few years, I have been seeing them as something that he was really teaching us to do. And he ended it with this hopeful clause: That just as God, who is perfect, forgives and encourages when we fail so should we be offering that same grace to our fellow travelers.