I’m not fond of gardening. I do it because my wife likes colorful things around the yard. I’ve suggested we go to Wal-Mart and pick up some artificial flowers and stick them in our flower beds. She frowns and rolls her eyes at that suggestion. Ain’t gonna happen!
So each spring we head out to a local nursery to pick out the plants we want to enjoy through the summer months. Typically my job is to get the plants in the ground, and keep them watered over the next several months.
The soil around our house is a dense mixture of rocks and clay. When the ground is wet it’s like trying to handle Play-Doh … not the best conditions for plant growth. That is remedied by mixing in several bags of planting mix to break up the gooey consistency of the soil. Of course, this means hours of sore muscles and sweat … which is why I skipped that step this year. Just stick the plants in the ground and water them good. There, that should do it.
I was looking at our flower beds a few days ago and it seems that the plants haven’t really grown much. By this time each year the plants are well-developed and the beds are full of color. Not so this year. Some of the plants aren’t much larger than when I planted them two months ago. I reason, “Oh the nursery just gave us some wimpy plants. They can’t stand the heat.”
Yeah right! I don’t want to admit it, but the problem is that I took shortcuts in preparing the soil for the plants. Their roots are having a hard time pushing through the Play-Doh they’re planted in. They really don’t have a chance of reaching their lush, colorful potential.
The same thing happens to the human heart.
Jesus told a parable about a farmer who sowed some seed in his field (Matthew 13). Some of the seed fell on hard-packed ground; the seeds have no chance of taking root before the birds come and peck away the seed. Some of the seed fell into shallow soil. Immediately the seed takes root, but not deeply. When the hot sun bears down on the little plants they shrivel and die for lack of sufficient roots. Still other seed fell into a patch of soil that is already loaded with weeds and thorns. There’s too much competition for the nutrients in the soil, and the plants simply don’t grow to produce fruit.
Later Jesus will explain that the various soils in the parable represent the differing conditions of the human heart when it comes into contact with the seed of God’s Word. For some people their hearts are so hard that they hardly know when a seed of truth has been dropped before them. For some there is initial interest in God’s Word, but the shallowness of their heart simply won’t sustain any consistent growth when hard times come. For others the Word of God falls into such a distracted heart that the Word cannot compete with all the other interests. Little, if any, fruit appears from this life. As Jesus puts it, “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22)
Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love makes the following observation: “I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions or commitments are piled on top of it.”
Our lives are simply too crowded to seriously seek God and the life of the Gospel. No wonder we see little fruit in terms of genuine Christlikeness reflected in our lives. For this to change we must take an honest look at the multiple interests, hobbies, gadgets and amusements we have heaped upon our lives. What will have to go in order for us to have more time to devote to seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness? Hours in front of the television? Absorption with mindless entertainment? Endless internet browsing? Infatuation with the latest fashions or cars?
I’m not calling for a monk-ish lifestyle. I’m not saying we should not take pleasure in the delightful experiences of life. God has given us all things to richly enjoy. I’m saying that we should passionately give ourselves to that which brings most glory to God. Our most aggressive pursuits should be after that which will produce eternal fruit … hearts filled with love for God, minds shaped by life-changing truth, the Gospel of Christ extended to the ends of the earth, souls brought into the Kingdom of God, and the glory of God over all things.
In His parable Jesus spoke about a fourth kind of soil. “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop” (v.8). This is the heart, Jesus explains, that “hears the word and understands it” (v.23). The result is that from this one seed comes a harvest of a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was originally sown.
So what’s the condition of your heart? Set your heart wholly on the knowledge of God. Love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. May that all-consuming passion crowd out the lesser priorities of life so that we may live truly fruitful lives.