3 He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. 4 As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. 6 But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. 7 Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. 8 Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. 9 Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”
This is one of a handful of passages where Jesus talks about faith as a low-probability event (see also Matthew 7:13-14).
In college, I studied A LOT of probability and statistics. One thing I learned is that when each individual action has a low likelihood of success, the ONLY way to see MORE success is to increase the number of times you try.
That’s exactly what the farmer does in Jesus’ “Parable of the Sower.” We might, at first glance, wonder why it isn’t called “the Parable of the Dumb Farmer,” or “the Parable of the Seed Waster.” But contrary to what we might take away from a cursory reading, he’s not scattering the seed so wildly because he expects it to do well in every place it lands. No.
He’s sowing the seeds EVERYWHERE not because he expects EVERY ONE to grow – in fact, he knows many will not. Instead, he keeps planting because he trusts that the few that do sprout will produce an AMAZING result. Genuine faith may be a low-probability event, but when it DOES take root, the effect both on the individual and the world around them is something far beyond we could ever imagine.
The problem is that we can’t see where the good soil might be. It’s hard for us to tell good soil from hard-packed dirt, rocky ground, or thorny weeds.
That’s why good sowers are completely indiscriminate in how they sow – because our “success” in spreading God’s message of faith and love is not about our ability to distinguish between good and bad soil. Instead, it’s just about our willingness to keep planting the seeds to see what amazing thing happens!
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
How can you sow seeds of faith today? Is there a practical kindness you can show to a stranger? Is there a message of gospel hope you can share with a friend? Could you offer to pray with or for someone? Remember that it’s not about trying to identify the best, most receptive soil…it’s just about a steady, daily practice of planting seeds wherever you can.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us today to share the love that we have found in you. Give us the courage to plant seeds of faith without worrying about whether or not they will grow. In fact, help us to know that many will not – and then give us hope to keep planting anyway! Amen.