By Daniel Bobinski
During every person’s first year on Earth, discoveries are made that, for lack of a better term, become part of one’s neural net. Because no two people have the same life experiences, each of our neural nets are different. As life continues and new discoveries are made, each piece of learning finds a home in our unique mental filing system.
In academic terms, this is called our “schema,” which, as you would correctly guess, is the same root word for our English word, schematic.
Every person’s mental filing system is different, but being that so many life experiences are common across a culture, a whole lot of overlap exists. No doubt this is why Jesus used parables so frequently – to convey spiritual truths in a way that the masses could understand, if they wanted to.
I say, “If they wanted to,” because there was a catch. Thankfully, Jesus told his disciples what that catch was. In essence, Jesus used parables to distinguish between those who truly desired to receive the message of the Kingdom and those who were just interested in His signs and wonders. Those who truly want to know God and His principles would seek to understand the parables.
This is backed up by the writer of Hebrews. In the sixth verse of Hebrews 11 we’re told, “God reveals Himself to those who earnestly seek Him.” That’s the key. Before God reveals Himself to someone, He wants to know whether that person is genuine in his or her desire for that relationship.
In other words, is your heart ready?
I’m going to assume that if you’ve gotten this far in reading this, you have at least a passing interest in understanding the meaning of Christ’s parables. So with that, allow me to take a tour of a parable that Jesus used to describe the possible conditions of our hearts.
The parable of the sower
A sower is a person who puts seeds on or in soil with the purpose of growing healthy plants. In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells of a person applying seeds to different types of soil. He also tells us what happens to the seeds as a result of landing on the various soil types. Later, Jesus explains to His disciples that the seed represents the Word of God and the different types of soil represent different conditions of the human heart.
You can read the parable and its explanation by going to the 13th chapter of the book of Matthew, verses 3-23, but it starts with Jesus saying this:
“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.”
The explanation Jesus gives picks up in verse 18, but here’s an overview:
The seed represents the Word of God.
The path is another way of saying hard ground, because dirt gets packed when people traverse on it. Think about it. Parts of the Oregon Trail can still be seen 160 years after it fell out of use, and even today nothing grows in the ruts because the dirt is so solidly packed. In the same way, the path in this parable represents people with hearts hardened to the point that God’s Word cannot take root.
The rocky ground represents those who receive God’s message with joy, which is conveyed by saying the seed sprang up quickly. However, because the soil was shallow due to the presence of rocks – which represent troubles and persecution – the message did not stick. The distractions of the world and attacks from the enemy prevent the seeds of God’s Word from developing and growing strong root systems.
The third type of soil, the thorny ground, represents people who hear God’s message but their time to tend to what God wants to do through us is pushed aside by what Jesus described as the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Think of it as a fragmented focus on God’s Word that eventually gives way to the cares of this world.
The fourth type of soil described by Jesus is the good soil. Good soil represents a heart that readily receives the Word of God. It has the conditions necessary for roots to grow strong. It’s fertile. It’s tended to.
If you think about it, in the book of Genesis, Adam was told to tend the garden before the fall. In the second chapter of Genesis we’re told, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Note that Adam was given the responsibility to work and take care of the garden before the fall occurred. In the same way, we need to tend soil of our hearts so that the Word of God can grow solid.
If we have a hard heart it behooves us to humble ourselves before God and ask Him to soften it.
If our heart resembles rocky ground and we are distracted it helps to find a mentor who stands firm on God’s Word and study with that person regularly.
If our lives are being choked with worldly worries we must learn to set boundaries and set aside time for biblical study and prayer.
Bottom line, if our heart is usable by God, He will do mighty things through us – more than we can imagine. But it’s like getting to know Him in the first place – He wants us to earnestly want that.
Daniel Bobinski, Th.D., is an award-winning and best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at [email protected] or (208) 375-7606.