Jesus told a parable of a sower who sowed seed by “broadcasting” it, or tossing it on the ground. Some of the seed fell on the path. The path was hard-packed from years of foot-traffic, no cultivation, and the hot sun. The seed could not penetrate the soil and the birds came and carried it away.
Other seed fell on the rocky soil. The rocky soil was not soil mixed with gravel, rocks, or boulders. It was bedrock with a thin layer of soil on top of it. The seeds would have germinated in the thin soil, and the plants would have pushed up quickly, in part because they were unable to expend any energy sending roots downward. But the plants would have quickly withered and died because there was no moisture available to them.
Still other seed fell among the thorns. This soil was suitable for growing plants (the thorns were able to thrive there). But the thorns were more aggressive than the good plants, and they soon choked out the good plants.
And some seed fell in good soil. It grew, producing healthy plants that yielded a harvest.
The seed is the word of God. The sower is anyone who spreads the word. And the soils are the hearts of those who hear the word. Each soil represents a different heart condition.
When one first responds to the gospel, it can be difficult to discern what soil truly represents your heart. Everyone thinks his heart is good soil. And yet many are really rock or thorns. One way to tell how what kind of soil your heart really is, is to evaluate how you respond to the word today. Jesus said that the good soil would “hold fast to the word.” If you were truly good soil in the beginning, you will continue to respond to the word in the same way.
Consider each of the four soils. Which one really represents how you respond to the word when you hear it preached in church, when you participate in Bible studies, when you read in on your own, and when friends and neighbors speak to you about it?
The word never sinks into your heart. It’s gone as quickly as it comes.
You respond to the word, often in an emotional and resolute way. But your resolve soon fades, and there is no change in your life.
The word appeals to you, and you desire what it promises. But you desire other things more, and the word is soon crowded out.
You respond to the word with true sincerity. Your commitment is proven as you persevere with the word and produce fruit.