Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Mindful Monday: The Parable of the Sower

parable of the sower.jpgOne of my favorite scripture passages–the one Eric and I actually used for our wedding ceremony–is the Parable of the Sower, from Matthew 13:


That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”


But the thing is, I’ve always read this parable as a lesson of discipline: If you eat three healthy meals a day and don’t snack, you will be thin. If you and your husband invest in a regular date night, your marriage won’t go stale. If you give your kids chores to do, they won’t grow up to be whiny, spoiled brats. And if you try to pray every day, and work on your toxic thoughts, then you will have a better chance of getting through the really hard days.

Not until I read a reflection by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a 17th century French soldier who later became a Carmelite friar, did I see the role of grace in all this. He writes in a meditation called “How to Produce the Hundredfold”:


We must keep our eyes fixed on God in everything we say, do, or undertake. We must make a firm resolution to overcome, with God’s grace, all the difficulties inherent in the spiritual life.

When we undertake the spiritual life we must seriously consider who we are, recognizing that we are worthy of all scorn and subject to all kinds of miseries, and a multitude of setbacks. These disturb us and make our health, our moods, our inner dispositions, and their outward manifestations changeable; in all, we are persons God wants to humble by means of a multitude of internal and external troubles and trials.

God’s help is necessary at every moment because without it the soul can do nothing. The world, nature, and evil wage war so fiercely and so relentlessly that, without this special help and this humble, necessary dependence, they would carry off the soul against its will. This seems contrary to nature, but grace finds pleasure and peace therein.


Well that’s good to know. That if my seed accidentally gets dumped on the concrete, as it often does during a day, that I am promised some help relocating it to the fertile ground, where it can grow a hundredfold, that God has my back. Sort of. As long as I’m humble about taking direction.

Image courtesy of

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  • Elizabeth

    Love this post.
    I also adore Brother Lawrence. My copy of his “Practice of the Presence of God” is falling apart because it is one of my comfort books that I turn to so often.

  • Bill

    So much for exegesis. Jesus’ stories were a part of the ancient kerygma that the church preached. The pericopy had a standard usage with a standard meaning. In the synoptic tradition, this Parable of the Sower is about discipleship. It is about those who do not mature in the faith and bear the image of Jesus by bearing fruit. It is also about responding to the Gospel which is a living incarnation of Christ. Some cannot respond. Few go on to maturity. Let’s not cheapen the text or the Jesus tradition by purposely using his teachings out of context.

  • Tenon

    First, I have trouble with this bit:
    ‘in all, we are persons God wants to humble by means of a multitude of internal and external troubles and trials’
    Does this mean God sends us the trials and troubles?
    Second, Bill, you say:
    ‘Some cannot respond. Few go on to maturity.’
    Do you mean they cannot respond even if they want to? This doesn’t sound very hopeful.

  • John

    When everyone realizes that Whatever we reap we will Sow is an immutable and impersonal Law, and begins to live their life knowing this, Peace we come upon Everyone and Our Mother Earth.

  • Wordpress Themes

    Genial post and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you for your information.

  • Skylark

    Bill offers the traditional interpretation the Church has always
    given for these verses…but who is to say that the Spirit is not
    also guiding the minds and hearts who read this in ways they personally need to hear…the Church also teaches this. There is much wisdom in both interpretations…and who are we to say either is incorrect or wrong. I like the lesson about humility here..without
    humility we cannot begin to know God.

  • Lisa Jones

    To: Skylark, Bill, and Tenon: First of all, Skylark, thank you for saying exactly what I was hoping someone would say, and saying it so well. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this life, God is not into formulaic thinking. He loves to be both true to His character and exceedingly personal at the same time. His Spirit will speak to each of us where we are…His word is living and active…notone dimensional.
    Bill, I’m sure that God loves that you know all of that. Just be careful, the Word says knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. I’ve been trying to be less “Truth Girl”, and more “Love Girl”, and I think God has been able to use me a lot more when I’m not going around telling everyone what they should and shouldn’t think.
    Tenon, I love your humble teachable approach. You are truly clothing yourself with humility, like 1Peter 5:5 says, and God loves that…”He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. You asked, “does God send the troubles?” I don’t want to get into a lengthy answer, but suffice it to say that most of the trouble on this earth is caused by humans to humans. Our free will choice. Other things are caused by humans taking a perfect world, and choosing to introduce sin, which brought about thorns and thistles etc., where there were none. No-I do not believe God causes the trouble, but trouble will come, and God will not waste our trouble. He will use it to grow us and shape us and better prepare us for when the next trouble comes.
    You also were not thrilled at the prospect that some people don’t have a chance. The Bible is full of verses that tell us otherwise. “It is God’s will that none should perish but that all should come to repentance”…and one of my favorites (especially when my son was rebelling against God with drugs and so many other things)is 2nd Samuel 14:14 “Like water spilled on the ground never to be recovered, so we all must die, but God does not bring about death, but devises ways to bring the banished person back to Him.” I hope that helps:)

  • Emily

    Bill – I agree, we need to take this passage in context. The seed is the Word of God (Mark 4:14). The reason we know this is not because of church history, but because of the Word itself. We always need to interpret scripture with scripture. The traditions of the church may be right or wrong, but God’s Word will stand for itself.
    Skylark – I also agree that God can speak to us personally regarding a passage, and perhaps use it in a way that is not inherent in that particular text. However, I think we need to be careful to make sure that what we think we are learning lines up with the Word of God, and to not make a passage say something it doesn’t, or try to teach others what God has intended for us. We do reap what we sow….but that is not what this passage is talking about. Other passages confirm that and I think it would be best to go there to study this concept.
    Lisa – I agree that humbleness is important in our growing and being effective. Your statement about trying to be a “love girl” not as much a “truth girl” is definately something I struggle with as well. I think we need to be both – speaking the truth in love.

  • Bill

    Thanks to all who replied to my post. Yes, the Spirit can speak directly to me or to a community when the Word is spoken or read. The Spirit reveals himself through the Word. He also lifts up Jesus and works to conform us to God’s will. Often I am enlightened and inspired as I read the Word. God is always showing me new truths and problem areas in my life as He applies the word to my heart. Having said this, I need to warn the rest of you about the dangers of any personal inspiration that clearly compromises the text and the historical meaning of the text. We are not free to reinterpret the text in a way to change doctrine or alter the original meaning of the text as it was understood by the early church and tradition. It is God’s Word. Do not be as those who mishandle it or mislead others by means of a wrong interpretation.
    Knowledge may puff up. At the same time, ignorance can never be a virtue, especially when it leads to self-pride. I am tired of the anti-intellectualism of those who want to substitute a personal reading of the text for the hard work of exegesis. Study to show yourself approved!

  • KRIS

    The Parable of the Sower Explained… BY JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF…MATT 13:18-23
    18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. [2] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

  • KRIS


  • Christy

    Thank you for sharing the truth of JESUS! Too many people are okay with “God”, being “spiritual”, etc., but the Word directs all of it’s truth to Jesus….He was, He is, and He will be forever the ONLY exalted one, period. His Word is not something to be molded to fit our own circumstances, thoughts, or life. We are called to be “transformed by the RENEWING of our mind and to be living sacrifces unto HIM”. The Word, the TRUTH, goes against all that is natural and goes against everything that our flesh desires. It is never plesant to be reminded of what we are-evil. We are nothing, BUT through Jesus, we are redeemed, forgiven, and made co-heirs with Him. Jesus is no tame Man, He is a LION, but He is fully trustworthy.
    A warning to be heeded by Bill. “I am tired of the anti-intellectualism of those who want to substitute a personal reading of the text for the hard work of exegesis. Study to show yourself approved!”

  • Your Name

    Good thoughts and comments. I think there is something for each one of us to learn from the other. I LOVED the innovative idea of letting Jesus tell us what it meant;) Brilliant.

  • Tenon

    Thanks Lisa

  • ItsaGodthing

    Ouch! Ouch! My toes weren’t only stepped on, they were smushed! I did not have a good day today, struggling. This article hit home, kinda a God-thing happening.

  • Herb

    To me, in a practical way the parable translates to the work of becoming more loving and patient, kind and forgiving. The real work, and the labor recommended by the gospel, In short, having the strength; to become more like Him, Jesus, in these ways.

  • KRIS


  • Roz

    Thank you, Bill for comment on “anti-intellectualism”. This attitude also reflects that of the general population, but is especially important in exegesis, as you wrote. There *are* solid fundamentalistic scholars, true Biblical scholars, such as those who have studied classic Greek and Latin, and have knowledge of not only geography, but ancient history as well, whose studies and teachings *are* relevant to a deeper understanding of the Word.
    IMHO, it is also extremely important to avoid emotionalistic, over-personalized interpretation, in our study of the Lord’s message. While we can find individual solace and guidance in our readings, as already has been noted above, we must constantly guard against out of context interpretation.
    All of that said, I suppose in the end what is important is that if someone finds a solace that draws him/her closer to our Lord in his/her unique and individual understanding of a text, then that’s OK, too.

  • Rosa

    Wisdom is the principal thing.

  • Uploader

    I think this is one of the most important information for me. And im glad reading your article. Good job, cheers

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