I like listening to people who know what they are talking about. It becomes impressive, though, when they know who they are talking to. Jesus shared a parable about how his disciples should think about sharing their knowledge of the Kingdom of God: “the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you” (Matthew 13:11, niv). I’m referring to the parable of the soils, found in the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).
It’s the story of a farmer who is willing and ready to sow seed into the ground. The farmer casts the seed, indiscriminately, on four types of soil. It’s here that we wonder if each soil represents a different state of the heart. Not to be dogmatic, but we have to handle parables carefully. They are not meant to be allegorical; each detail is not representative of a greater truth. Otherwise, we would be infusing made-up stories with our own subjective agendas. Rather, I agree with Bible commentator Adolf Jülicher that parables have a single point, and the rest is narrative scenery.[i]
Plant Good Seeds
This approach to interpreting parables helps us focus on Jesus’ heart and character without being deterred by details. Whether the soils represent seasons of a person’s life or the status of their heart, I’m not sure. What I am confident about is the most important truth: Jesus wants us to understand the human heart as soil and think of it the way a farmer might. On the contrary, the modern era, with its emphasis on efficiency and repetition, has led us to view even discipleship through a lens of the factory model. But people are gardens, not factories.
If people are gardens, knowledge should be treated like the seeds that will, eventually, grow. We need to make sure that the seeds we are planting will produce something of the Kingdom when fully grown. And you can’t rush it. Some questions need to be revisited for years before the answer takes. Some answers need to be revisited for years for a good question to take.
Never Stop Growing
Sometimes we have to make sure it’s not a faulty seed. “If it’s not good news, then it’s not the gospel” is a common saying at The Doubters’ Club. Some seeds should never have been planted. You must keep growing in the knowledge and truth that comes from seeking answers to your friend’s questions to make sure that you are casting the right seed. I am deeply concerned that Christians stop growing out of a multitude of reasons.
Heard it too many times.
Whatever your reason may have been, never stop learning “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). Otherwise, you will spend a lot of time trying to grow a seed that produces “twice as much a son of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15, amp).
[Jesus said,] “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.”
Matthew 23:15, MSG
[i] For a quick reference to this, see Oxford Reference, “Adolf Jülicher,” accessed February 11, 2021, https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100026765.