28 May 2021

What Kind of Seed Are You Sowing?

Churches are quite often concerned with their membership. They can't be blamed, it's how they pay their bills. A church needs to grow, to add new members, in order to stay alive. When we read about Jesus in Luke 8, he has expanded his ministry by driving out demons. He has the support of a group of women whom he has healed who are now financing his mission across Israel (8:1-3).

However, this is not the point of his ministry, it is not his message to "put butts in pews," but rather to change the way we look at ourselves, our community, and our world.

Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who scatters his seed. Rather than sowing it neatly, perhaps in rows, he seems to scatter it everywhere indiscriminately. Some falls on the road, some on rocky ground, some among weeds, and only a little finds a home among good soil. Jesus says that this small amount of seed produces a hundred-fold more than all that was sown (8:5-8 ).

Luke then gives a narrative frame for this parable (8:11-15 ); it is a good explanation, but I would like to suggest that this is but one interpretation of the story. Jesus often told stories more than once for different audiences, and sometimes he told them slightly differently.

What other ways might we understand it if we think about it awhile? What is the seed being sown? What does the different types of soil represent? What are the plants? What is the crop? And why is this farmer scattering his seed everywhere rather than sowing it as one normally would?

What type of seed is being sown makes a large difference to the meaning of the parable. If the seed is a grain, say wheat, then the seed is the crop. You sow wheat to get wheat. If the seed is a fruit seed, then the seed is not the crop, the fruit it produces is the crop. You do not sow fig seeds to get more seeds, you sow them to get figs. The type of seed tells us if what is being sown is what we hope to reap or whether we want to reap something unlike what was sown.

In Luke's explanation, what is sown is the Word of God, but this is not what is harvested. Later on, when Jesus turns away seeing his Mother and brothers, he says, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice" (8:19-21 ). What Jesus is looking for is for those whose lives will be transformed by the Gospel and will produce a crop of virtue.

If we sow virtue, will we reap virtue? Is this the point of "do unto others?" The parable works either way. Whether we are virtuous because we are transformed by God's word, or whether we are virtuous because of the example set by others in our lives, the crop is the same. Jesus is saying it is the crop that is important.

Be indiscriminate both is speaking God's word and in showing kindness to others. Scatter goodness everywhere, especially on the "undeserving." Jesus tells us that the kindness of one person might change hundreds of lives, such is the abundance of the goodness that comes from God.

You don't have to hand out fortune cookies with Bible passages or make sure everyone knows that you're so very nice because of Jesus. You just have to be kind. God would rather we be good than right.

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Please remember to be kind to your brothers and sisters in Christ.