Thursday, February 21, 2013
Warning or Encouragement?
When he said this, he called out, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." -Luke 8:8 (NIV)
I teach a Wednesday night Bible study at the church I serve and it just so happens that we were studying Luke 8 last night. During the course of our conversation, the observation was made that the "Parable of the Sower" can either be read as both a warning and an encouragement.
Just in case you haven't read the parable yet, let me frame it. A farmer goes out to sow seed. Some of the seed falls on the path and is both trampled on and eaten by birds. Some of the seed falls on rocky ground and dies from lack of moisture. Other seed falls among thorns and the thorns choke out the good seed. Thankfully, some of the seed falls on good soil and produces a wonderful harvest.
If this parable is read as a warning, the message is this: what happens to the seed (which Luke says is the word of God) is dependent upon the ground, or heart, onto which it falls. Read in this way, you and I are to realize that, if our hearts aren't fertile ground, the word of God can be trampled, eaten, withered, or choked. You and I should therefore make sure that the word of God finds fertile soil in which to grow.
Another way of reading the parable is to see it as an encouragement. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law are already furious with Jesus for what he has said and done in the synagogue (6:11). They are looking for reasons to bring charges against him (6:7). Perhaps the disciples are growing discouraged because the seed that Jesus is planting isn't quite growing in the way that they want or hope. The parable could then be Jesus' way of reminding the disciples that farmers plant seed knowing full well that not all of the seed will grow...and yet that doesn't stop them from sowing. They simply trust that enough seed will grow and a good harvest produced. Similarly, the setbacks that Jesus and the disciples are experiencing will not stop the eventual fruition of God's word. That's an encouraging word if you're beginning to have some doubts about the harvest.
As you read the parable this morning, do you think God intends it to be a word of warning or a word of encouragement for you? Are you being urged to improve the soil quality of your heart in order that God's word might produce a bountiful harvest? Or are you a faithful sower who needs assurance that, despite no evidence of God's word taking root in the places where you're throwing seed, in the end the harvest will happen? Could it be that God intends the parable to be both a warning and an encouragement?
May God grant you the grace to hear this parable in the way that God desires for you to hear today.
Tomorrow's Reading: Luke 9
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