Have you heard the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13)? In it, Jesus discusses a man who sowed seed and the various types of soil the seed landed on. He identifies four types of soil–soil beside the road, rocky soil, thorny soil, and good soil. Later, Jesus explains the parable to His disciples. The seed is the word of the kingdom or the message of salvation. The four types of soil indicate four conditions of the human heart.
- The soil beside the road is the someone who hears the Word, but doesn’t understand it. This isn’t just intellectual understanding. Jesus means understanding the concepts and putting them into practice. If a person hears the Word but doesn’t put it into practice, then it never finds its way into his or her heart and the devil snatches away the true meaning of what was heard.
- The rocky soil is a heart that hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy; that is, he or she recognizes it as good news but doesn’t have understanding of or commitment to it. When trials and hardships come because of the Word, these people fall away–their faith withers because it never has deepened.
- Thorny soil is a heart that hears the Word but becomes distracted by the cares and delights of the world. This heart can be overcome by anxiety, stress, worry, leisure and even procrastination. I think this is probably the most common type of heart. Things like school, work, extracurricular activities and family stress can distract us from the reality of peaceful rest in God.
- At last, we come to the good soil. The good soil is a heart that hears the Word, understands it, and puts it into action. This is the heart that we all desire to have: a heart that understands the Word and puts it into practice every day. This heart still experiences trials but does not fall away; it still experiences anxiety and stress but is not distracted by them.
My belief is that each of us experiences each of these heart conditions. When we become very busy, our hearts may become thorny soil for a time as we work through stress or anxiety. When we’re persecuted for our faith, our hearts may become like rocky soil for a time due to peer pressure. Sometimes we may even hear a Bible teaching but for a variety of reasons, we don’t put what we’ve learned into practice.
What’s important is that we monitor the condition of our hearts regularly. When it seems like we are drifting from God, we need to ask Him and ourselves what condition our hearts are in and make sure it remains good for the seeds God has planted there.
What kind of soil are you?
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:23-24).