Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.’
I love this parable!
In my reimagining of the parable, I like to think of it as ‘The Reluctant Advertiser’.
I’m an adman who learned his trade during the golden years of advertising in the 70s and 80s, building big brands using mass-audience TV and print media. Campaigns cost a lot, but the return on investment from those that bought the brand was huge. And the ads also sowed the seeds of awareness amongst those not yet ready to buy, but who might in the future.
The parable features three words beginning with S: the sower, the seed, and the soil. The latter two generally attract the most attention. But today let’s focus on the sower.
At first glance he seems a pretty careless chap, doesn’t he? Seed was a precious commodity in those days. A good yield was critical to a good harvest, a good harvest critical to a good life. The key was good seed, carefully sown into well prepared soil. And yet here’s this guy chucking it all over the place! Even onto the paths, rocky ground, and weeds in the infertile margins of fields.
Why? And who is this fellow?
Well, at the time the parable was first told, the man doing the most ‘chucking’ was Jesus himself, who made a point of going to the people on the margins of society.
So, was Jesus being careless, even irresponsible, in wasting precious ‘seed’ by preaching to all and sundry (even Samaritans and lepers)?
Or was he being lavishly and lovingly extravagant? Making sure that everyone had the opportunity to hear about and to receive God’s grace?
Interestingly, the parable does not say explicitly that all of the seed falling among weeds, on rocky ground, or on the path failed to grow to maturity. We’ll all have seen plants growing in the most unlikely places.
Concentrating on sharing the gospel with those who we think are ready to hear it may seem to be the sensible option.
But let’s not pre-judge those we meet on our frontlines who do not seem ready.
To connect with them may simply require us to tell the gospel using concepts and language with which they are familiar. To throw seed onto seemingly unpromising ground. To touch hard, rocky, weedy hearts that may actually be bedded in good soil.
Which may actually be why Jesus taught in parables in the first place. So go on, chuck it about!
A lifelong adman, Mike is now Chair of Trustees at CPO (Christian Publishing & Outreach). You can read more of his retellings of parables at www.parablesrewired.com
Are there any aspects of your frontline that you’d considered unpromising but which might actually contain good soil? Join the conversation in the comments section below.