I was reading the Parable of the Soils found in Luke 8 today. The soils, that’s what we focus on when we discuss this passage. The road. The rocky soil. The thorny ground. The good earth. And we talk about becoming that rich loamy soil that produces good fruit.
But the last few times I’ve read this, I’ve had a completely different thought:
Where was the farmer?
I live in rural Lancaster County. I see farms and farmers every day. In their fields. Working them. They don’t just sow their seed and then disappear until harvest time when they’ll see how it turns out. They’re working the fields. Nurturing the plants. Providing moisture. Battling pests and weeds. Every day. It’s what farmers do.
So where was this farmer?
To be fair, there isn’t much he could do to make the road itself good soil.
But why wasn’t he providing water regularly so the plants in rocky soil could still flourish? Or maybe he could have removed the rocks, creating stone walls like the New England farmers two centuries ago, turning the barrier to growth into a barrier against attackers?
Why didn’t he pull the weeds, the thorny invaders, so they didn’t choke the plants? Aren’t weeds something farmers have to keep on top of?
Where was he?
Jesus tells us this parable is about the Word of God and how different individuals respond to it.
Some pay no attention. Others eagerly accept the Word, but because they are weak, temptation draws them quickly away. Some accept it, but then worry or wealth or the desire for pleasure becomes the focus of their lives and the Word never bears fruit. And the final group embraces it and bears fruit.
When we are sharing the Word of God with others, we can’t make people pay attention. (Trust me, we’ve seen that kind of coercive evangelism in action, and it’s a disaster.)
But what about the “rocky soil” ones who eagerly accept it but are living in the midst of terrible temptations, engrained habits of sin, and are weak? What nourishment are we providing to support them, to help them grow stronger, to reach down deep for better soil to hold tight to? Are we willing to invest the time, to keep propping them back up when they wilt, supporting them so they don’t give in to the temptation to give up on following Jesus?
Could we remove the stones of temptation to the edges of the field so instead of tripping people up they actually help protect them? How, you might ask. Perhaps by setting up groups like Narcotics Anonymous where you know you’re all in this together, facing the same mind battle. Or by creating other supportive and intentional small groups where the hard questions are asked (and answered) and confession and repentance are key, groups that build a wall of protection against the temptations that threaten our spiritual flourishing.
And how can we encourage the “thorny soil,” those threatened by the weeds of worry or the lure of consumerism and comfort, to stand firm and not succumb? Can we be part of their intentional community to pray for and with them about the worry that fills their minds and serve as accountability partners to challenge the always-rising desire to focus on our own needs and comfort. (And don’t we all need that if we’re honest?)
Or do we simply share the Gospel, celebrate when someone receives it and then berate the “soil” when it doesn’t produce the godly fruit we expect?
Are we absentee farmers?