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WHAT ABOUT MY RESPONSIBILITY?



Most of us are familiar with the basic story of the Parable of the Sower and how this explains people’s responses to hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are also familiar with the following passage from Matthew’s Gospel (from Today’s New International Version), where Jesus explains the meaning of the parable, but I believe that, for a long time, we have missed a part of this meaning as it applies to Christians and to the modern day church.

18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When people hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

Now the parable clearly tells us that there are four basic responses that people have when they hear the Gospel preached to them. Clearly, the above passage tells us about the individual who has heard the Gospel, so there is no real need for us to look at that aspect.

However, I want to look at the aspect of what our role or issue is within each of these four possible responses and the problems we create.

1. The Seed On The Path.

19 When people hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. This is the seed sown along the path.

Now we need to ask ourselves clearly about the reason why a person does not understand a story as simple as one that shows the way to salvation is through Jesus.

The first reason is the commonly used one in that the devil blinds the eyes and hearts of the person so they cannot understand the message. Now while that is quite true, to me it is an easy way out of my responsibility.

To me there are two better reasons.

 The first of these is that I clearly have not explained the message in a way that the individual(s) can understand it. If I sit down with a group of 5 year old children and expound to them Einstein’s Theory of Relativity with all the scientific know how that can be attached to that explanation, then clearly they will not understand a word of what I am saying and will wander off to find something that is interesting. Now you may say that this example is a bit silly. Maybe it is but it will serve the purpose of what I am about to say.

While we would unlikely consider the idea of being the “speaker” in such a silly exercise, we can be among the first to do exactly the same thing when it comes to presenting the Gospel story to a non-believer. Preachers and other Christians are only too ready to expound their knowledge of the subject with all the most wonderful religious phrases and words to people with no Biblical background, thus losing the very people they need to reach. Sure, mature Christians will fully understand and appreciate what has been said, but they, supposedly, have already come to Christ and have grown enough to understand.


Just as we would not give a baby of just a couple of months old some solid food, neither must we present the Gospel in words that are beyond the understanding of non-Christians. We must take care to reach out with the story in simple words and examples that are easily understood by a person with little or no Biblical understanding.

The second aspect is closely related to the first. That is we need, in our personal relationships with  non-Christians, to present the Gospel to them both in words and actions, in a way that they can clearly understand. I have lost count of the times that when a person has been asked to explain the fundamentals of Christianity, they will get all religious and use all the big words they can think of.

From these two points we can see how easily it is for us to contribute to the reasons why they do not understand and why it is so easy for the devil to convince them it is just another fairy story.

So much for the lack of understanding part of the spread of the Gospel.



2. The Seed On The Rocks

20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

There is a lot of similarity between this part and the previous one. The exception is the fact that the Word is spread in an easy to understand way so that people are more than willing to accept what has been said and to realise what has been said is the answer they are looking for.

So where does the rocky ground bit come in as far as the individual Christian or the church?

When we plant seed, it needs nourishment and that can only come from the soil. If the soil is very shallow (that is it is soil scattered on top of rock) then there is not much in the way of nutrition there for growth. Very soon the plant has absorbed all the nutrients and literally starves to death.

Likewise for a new Christian. We are all guilty of rushing in to bring salvation to someone’s life but then we walk away and leave them to themselves. We are guilty of this as individuals and as a church. Nothing is put in place that can assist them to be nourished and grow. We expect them to “feed” themselves. Now, if I was to suggest that you just leave a new born baby around to feed itself, I would soon be told to get real. Little babies have no idea about feeding themselves. Yet we are more than happy to let new Christians look after themselves and survive on their own. How do they know how to “feed” themselves with the needed spiritual food? The don’t. Sure, we can tell them to go to church but who is going to nourish them there and help them to grow. Very few churches (much to their detriment) have put nurturing programmes in place. As a result the new Christian soon starves and comes to the conclusion that there is nothing good about being a Christian.

Guess what? We are, once again, guilty of not helping the seed to grow and will be held accountable at the end of the age. We have “starved” that seed to stop or stunt its growth.



3. The Seed Among the Thorns

22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Again there are similarities between this and the seed on the rocky ground. The difference here is that because they are not being encouraged, they look to the world to provide answers. Remember that a new Christian has come out of the world and knows about its so called “securities” for living. If no security and encouragement is found in a church, then they will very easily be tempted to move back into the world where they can feel this false sense of security that the devil so willingly gives through the world.

Added to that is a very sinister aspect that plays a major influence. That is Christians and churches that continue in the ways of the world. Too many Christians today are not real. Sure, they go to church, they read the Word, do great works on behalf of the name of Jesus, they give to the church and they are seen as prominent members.

However, they spend the majority of their time living “in the world”. By that I mean they involve themselves heavily in the bad habits that are a part of the world. At the extreme we see drunkenness, abuse, heavy gambling, lying, cheating, laziness, etc.... and the list goes on.

Now to a new Christian who decides to model themselves on such a person, they are quickly led back into the world and its ways and before long they have put Christ behind them as being little more than a minuscule part of their lifestyle. Now before you say anything, I will confess that I have been very guilty of this breach of the system and deeply ashamed of myself for it. I know I have failed people in helping them by example and I certainly regret it.

Now the churches, as a corporate body, can be equally guilty on this one. Sadly, too many churches put the need for money and prestige ahead of their real purpose - to provide fellowship and growth for the body of believers. Churches run activities designed purely to make money and while there is nothing wrong with some of these ventures (such as property development for low rental housing and similar ventures) it is when the venture becomes the dominant and driving force for the church that it becomes a bad example. I remember many years ago being involved in a church that was happy to spend tens of thousands of dollars (which, I might add, it did not have) on making the property look beautiful with new carpets and similar which were not over  needed or essential, but refused to spend less than $100 on a box of Bibles that could be given to new Christians. It was the most pathetic action I had ever seen.

We are a part of the world and we have to live in it but we don’t have to conform to the standards of the world to survive. In fact, we will survive better if we don’t conform.

So what happens in this case is that the example we live (not the one we preach) tells the new Christian that there is no need to step outside the comfort zone they have always known and so they continue to find themselves “choked” by the world and lose their faith as a result.

See how we have contributed to the “thorns”?



4. The Seed Into The Good Soil

23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Now there is no need to go into any great depth about this one. It is all the things that the other three are not. When a new Christian is personally encouraged by a carer so that they can grow through example, encouragement, guidance, teaching and all the other great things, then this person will move ahead in their faith just as a properly cared for child grows physically through proper parental support.

The new Christian needs to find the environment and example from both individuals and the church they become attached to, positive for their growth so that the will look around and feel that, even when the road gets tough, they can continue on this way of life with absolute confidence. They will flourish and then, because they have been nurtured with the practiced love of God, they will be going out and encouraging others to take the same step that they took to bring about the positive change in their life.

So, as you can see from this, what we do and say, either as an individual or as a church, will help determine the type of “soil” we are planting the seed in. Such action requires genuine commitment to the faith we believe in so that we practice it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anything less can change the quality of the “soil” n which we are trying to plant the seed.

R. J. Burling