The Parable Of The Sower And Preparing The Soil

parable of the sower

We heard the Parable of the Sower this week in the Divine Liturgy, which is customary on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council. Despite having heard this parable many times before, this time I got something new out of it.

Here’s the parable as told in the Gospel of the Holy Apostle Luke:

A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold. When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Jesus goes on to explain that He is the sower, and that the seed is the Word of God. The ground is the human heart, and the condition of our hearts determines whether that seed takes root.

Some hearts are trampled down by passions, vices and the pursuits of the world. Some are hard as stone and not receptive to the love of Christ. Other hearts may receive the Word of God, but it is choked out by temptation and sin.

But some of the seed fell on good soil. That good soil is the heart that is sensitive to the Word of God, and receives it with gladness. The heart that welcomes the teaching of Christ is the one where His Word finds fertile ground in which to sprout and grow.

I’m no expert farmer, but I’ve tended a garden or two. I know that in order for your vegetables to grow, you have to prepare your soil. Tilling, digging and fertilizing happens before anything. A lot of work goes into getting the ground ready before you ever plant a seed.

As our priest explained the parable of the sower to us, he called to mind the preparation of the soil, and it dawned on me that this was a new way for me to look at this parable.

My upbringing as a Protestant told me that God’s salvation was not through our works but through His grace alone. But the Orthodox Church shows us that we must prepare our hearts through study, prayer, fasting and participating in the sacraments to truly be receptive to Christ.

We work together with Christ in our salvation by tilling the soil to make it a receptive place for His Word. We fertilize it with Scripture and the Eucharist. The garden of our hearts must be tended constantly for God’s Word to grow inside of us.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.   – I Corinthians 3:9

It is never enough for us to simply rest and say, “I’m saved through faith in God alone.” We must tend to our hearts at all times, lest they become inhospitable and infertile soil. The parable of the sower teaches us that we must help the seed that has been planted if it is to grow.

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Comments 4

  1. My two cents worth: This farmer was pretty careless about where he sowed his seed. Even when the seed fell on good soil, (something that happened by pure chance), it doesn’t say anywhere that he prepared the soil properly…. I find this disturbing.

    1. Post

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. In this parable, I think it’s implied that the Sower prepared His soil in advance. To take the analogy farther, sowing seed was generally done by casting handfuls onto the earth, as opposed to today’s more precise methods. Some seed was bound to be lost or wasted; that’s why much more seed is used than we expect to ever harvest.

      But to get into the meaning of the parable, God has prepared Man from the beginning of the world to receive Him. Some have hearts that are fertile ground, and others have hearts hardened by sin. It is up to each of us to work on the soil of our own hearts (to do a little weeding, as it were), to make them more receptive to God.

  2. I was reading this passage this morning and it struck me anew. My focus was similar – who prepares the soil? Soil cannot prepare itself. This parable speaks of “germination” if you will. So, the initial spark of faith, belief, acceptance of truth needs to be surrounded by a nurturing environment in order to thrive.
    It occurred to me that preparation of the soil is largely the responsibility of parents. Think of the job of parents. Many of us who were blessed to have fertile soil for the word can thank our parents who faithfully brought us up in the church. They modeled a love for God, faithfulness to serve, and to study. While every human born has/had parents – not all parents brought children into the world in the manner God gave as the model. So the soil of young hearts is, more often than not, unprepared to receive His truth. Certainly other faithful of God can also help prepare the soil of young souls, but it is the primary responsibility of parents.
    Being brought up in church is NOT the only way – as long as parents teach their children to be lifelong learners, searchers for truth, discerning, curious, even open-minded. However, it is the surest way to ensure exposure to pure holy truth. May God be praised for sharing it with us!
    As members of the Body of Christ, is it one of the responsibilities of us all to take on the task of preparing sourish soil in the world so that all might receive the Word of God with gladness.

    1. Post

      Thank you for commenting. It’s true that as parents, we have a responsibility to prepare our children not only to be open to God’s will, but to be prepared for the thorns and weeds that spring up around them. Mastering our own passions through prayer, fasting and scripture, as well as the receiving of the sacraments, helps us be examples to our children of soil that can receive that seed of God’s truth.

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