And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:2-9 ESV
This parable speaks of 4 types of ground on which seeds are sown and how the ground’s condition affect the process of growth of the seeds.
The ground represents people’s heart condition and response to the the Word and the “people” can represent both the believers and non-believers. We can probably see the parable from a different light.
The path or wayside. This is a boundary-free open space where everyone walks on. A place where people advocate open attitudes towards faiths. Everything goes for them, truth or falsehood. They seek compromises and middle grounds, therefore do not put up a stand on a conviction – which perhaps they may not have one. They can’t distinguish between the true and the false. Truths spoken to them are “taken away” by the “birds” of liberal theologies and false teachings.
The stoney ground. Stones do not provide the environment for seeds to grow roots though they may still germinate into a young shoot. Seem promising at first. But there is no anchor point for the root to sink into. You probably see initially excited believers caught in the frenzy of “doing church” through joining many programmes and social interactions but are not built up on the Word to grow as intentional disciples. Everything seems good until the storms and winds of life’s circumstances set in, and these fall away. Or it may that, like stones which are cold, a church could have a cold environment of legalistic rituals and traditions that does not display love and acceptance of people. This also lead to a fall away.
The thorny ground. A choking environment. While the shoots wants to sprout and grow, this environment’s focus on the cares of the world and the world’s way of doing things stifle them. Christian movements that pursue consumerism spread the “feel-good” gospel and set people to pursue the wrong things in life. False teachings, like thorns, stifle real growth and they can be very subtle – people are brought to believe they are doing the right thing when they are not. On another note, false teachings can be packaged in attractive camouflage that emphasise on spiritual “fantasies” instead of faith; sights and feelings instead of discipleship. Has not the Bible spoken about such deceptions becoming more and more rampant in the end times?
The good ground. An environment of growth where roots can grow and get deep into the ground, receiving the nutrients they need. There is a personal pursue to know the Word instead of just been fed. Just like the Berea Christians who dig into the word to check “whether what is thought is true”. (Acts 17:11) This is the antidote against deception of false teachings. No more depending on the pulpit messages or Christian conferences to boost personal growth although these have their place to assist growth. Good grounds are not found in conferences but in your closet when you meet with God!
1. Take sometime to evaluate the conviction of your faith. Is it based purely on the emphasis of some revolutionary Christian movement or on a personal relationship with Jesus on a daily basis?
2. Do you live on “borrowed” faith such as depending solely on weekly pulpit messages or Christian conferences to boost your faith and belief? If your answer is yes, it is time to follow the example of the Berea Christians to dig deep into the Word personally on a daily basis.