Luke 8:4-15 - Parable of the Sower, a Matter of the Heart
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Each account where the parable of the sower is recorded (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15) it's always preceded by a "large crowd" coming from "various cities" (Luke 8:4) to hear Jesus, so large a group that Jesus retreated to a boat on the shore and taught the large crowds standing on the beach. Therefore one perspective I would encourage you to consider when reading this parable is that from the standpoint of Jesus who at this point has a large crowd pressing in on him made up of people from all walks of life.


When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.

11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. 12 Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. - Luke 8:4-15


There is a lot of intel here but I want to zero in on one fact, that which I'm referencing in this article's title. The issue is a matter of the heart. The issue isn't a lack of knowledge, the word is sown into every individual, everyone knows of God (Rom. 1:18-20). The issue isn't that any of these people haven't gotten the seed sown in them, the issue is the soil in them it lands in. Notice in verse 15 where Jesus likens the "good soil" to be those that "have heard the word in an honest and good heart", and earlier in verse 12 the where the enemy snatches away the word from their heart, or as put in Matthew 13:19 "snatches away what has been sown in his heart" . So we know the seed is the word of God (v11), also called the "word of the kingdom" (Matt. 13:18) and the soil, where the seed is sown, is in man's heart (v15).


This parable isn't so much about the seed and whether or not someone got it sown in the soil of their heart, rather the issue is the condition of the soil that is in their heart. So let's look at these individuals and see what's going on with each.


Those beside the road. The seed which is the word of God is sown, and as Jesus explains in verse 12, they individuals have heard, but then the devil takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. Matthew 13:19 gives a little more insight whereas such a person not only hears the word of God but also does not understand it. Thereafter Satan comes and snatches away what has been sown. This lack of understanding isn't an intellectual issue as much as it's a moral issue. Satan isn't merely taking the word away from those that don't get it but rather those that don't want it. If it was an intellectual issue then the soil wouldn't be the heart, it would be the brain. Jesus likens the condition of this man's soil (his heart) to soil beside the road or "the way side". Such represents seeds that sit on top the soil, never being taken in, never given a chance. Therefore such seeds are easily picked off by the birds of the air. In other words, it's not hard for Satan to take the word away from someone who doesn't want it in order that while "seeing that may not see, and hearing they may not understand" (v10, cf Matt. 13:10-16). God doesn't force Himself on those who don't want Him. Parables allow receiving hearts to know mysteries of the kingdom while hearts that are rejecting don't have such knowledge forced on them. God loves us enough to let us go if we don't want Him.


Those on rocky soil. The word actually starts to grow here, even bringing some fruit such as joy in the heart where it's sown. Unfortunately it doesn't last. Luke says that's due to "times of temptation", Mark and Matthew record these times as times of "affliction or persecution" that result because of the word. In other words, they believe while it's fun, but don't persevere when the fun ends, especially if the hardships come specifically because of the word. These people easily adapt the mindset of the company they are in. As long as they are hearing the word they go along with it, but the moment they aren't fed it, or are among bad company, they quickly fall away. As James 1:24 puts it "for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was." These are those who are very impressionable and easily swayed, impulsive men and women who for a time are enchanted by the splendor of the gospel and take up the Lord's yoke with joy, but without thought, hastily making religious profession without considering the cost such a profession amounts to. And while the yoke suits them they bear it, but when it no longer suits them either because it prevents them from something more desirable or affliction and/or persecution arises against them because of the yoke, they quickly cast it off (cf Luke 9:23-24).


Those among the thorns. The word grows here, but so does the thorns, and the thorns not dealt with end up choking out the word so that it does not come to fruition. Luke's account depicts fruit that never reaches maturity, the other accounts in Matthew and Mark state that the word "becomes unfruitful". Ultimately the presence of the thorns left undealt with ultimately overcomes the word that was trying to grow. This is a person who's temporal focus has caused them to lose sight of their eternal reality. Their worldly concerns, in other words, their worries that godless worldly people share such as riches among desires for other things deceive them and consume their heart leaving no room for the word to thrive. These understand the divine word of God and in part may even try to live according to it, but along side that are these worldly concerns, deceitfulness of riches, and desire for other things that leave the person double-minded (James. 1:8). Nobody can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24) and their attempt to do that leaves them unstable and unfruitful. Jesus' heart was moved for such a person (Mark 10:21).


Those on good soil. It's not that thorns don't grow, nor that persecutions and affliction don't come, surely they do and to the same degree as to the others, but this person's heart is not divided nor is it prolongedly deceived by the worries of this world. Like Peter, even when things are to difficult for them they understand there is nowhere else to go (John 6:68). Some may be more fruitful than others but all bear fruit. These are not bent on money making and other fleeting pursuits but pressing on to the attainment of wisdom, holiness, and righteousness. These reflect the growth progression laid out in the beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-11).


The big question: What if I find myself in one of the first three preceding classes?


Well first, I think many feel they are when they in fact aren't. Those that are I would speculate would rarely land on this site and be reading this article, though perhaps God has orchestrated it so you are reading or hearing this, if that's the case, let me continue!


Why would Christ have shared this parable if He hadn't hoped that those in the three preceding classes would heed His words and join the 4th class. If there was no hope for change then Christ would merely be stating out loud an unchangeable reality to no benefit of it's hearers. I would argue that the roadside path can be rototilled, the rocks places can be blasted out, and the thorns, even the most stubborn of them can be uprooted. Many times God calls us to repent. Repentance in it's shortest definition means to "change one's mind". You have the option to repent!


So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. - James 1:21 (NLT)


The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Consider James two step program above, rid yourself of the bad, humbly receive the good that God has planted in you.


God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. - Acts 15:8 (NIV)


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