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Soil Types


In the Parable of the Sower, one discovers that the farmer is the same and the seed is the same. The soil is the difference, which becomes the focal point of the story. In Jesus’ interpretation of the parable in Matthew 13:18-23, he plainly describes the four soils which are distinguished based on their reception of the seed. The focus is not the message, but the reception of the message. Furthermore, the one message of the Kingdom can have varying degrees of impact.

The first soil type is RESISTENT. It is the footpath which has become hard and unresponsive. The resistant soil is unresponsive because it “does not understand” the message of the Kingdom. The dormant seed is quickly snatched away by the enemy.

The second soil type is described as rocky or SHALLOW. This soil receives the message of the Kingdom with enthusiasm and joy, but because it lacks depth the initial enthusiasm is dimmed at the first sight of adversity or persecution. Because of its lack of depth, the small plant gives up.

Yet a third soil type is the DISTRACTED soil…characterized by thorn infested. While the seed finds enough soil to take root, it finds itself overcrowded with distractions. Apparently there are multiple trust issues, as the soil is cluttered with the worries of life and the lure of wealth. The seed is perhaps initially intrigued by the message of the Kingdom, but only insomuch as Jesus becomes an “add on” or an upgrade to a complicated life. But the gospel is not an add on. The message of the Kingdom is intended as the organizing and ordering principle of one’s life.

If we pause for a moment to evaluate the first three soils, we quickly observe that 2 of the 3 that failed to produce fruit responded favorable at the onset. But receiving the word with joy and enthusiasm is not enough. Those who receive the Kingdom must receive the kingdom with a willing heart and a submissive mind. God does not drive us into the kingdom of God. God may plead, but he does not demand. He will persuade, but will not drive us into the Kingdom. The mystery of the Kingdom is that the Kingdom has come yet people can reject it. Many do. To be a disciple in the Kingdom means hearing and responding to the message of the kingdom in such a way your life becomes defined by it.

This brings us to the final soil, the PRODUCTIVE soil. This soil is good, receptive and responsive. Jesus uses hyperbole and exaggeration to show the profound impact that the message of the Kingdom can have. In first century Israel, any ten-fold increase would have been recognized as a good crop. Yet Jesus speaks of fruitfulness that can measure thirty-fold, sixty-fold, or even one hundred-fold.

The Kingdom comes when seed and soil come together. Kingdom begins to come in a person’s life when the soil receives the word. Any hearing that does not result in life change (transformation) is not valid hearing. Conversions that count are confirmed via our discipleship and our fruitfulness.

This parable is designed to challenge us to see ourselves in the soil types. Which soil are you? Can you look at your life and see evidences of fruitfulness? If so, are you as fruitful as you can be? Tomorrow I’ll discuss how we can improve our soil in order to increase our fruitfulness in the Kingdom.

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