Luke 8: How Is Your Heart-Soil?

Earlier this week I was looking back through an old journal of mine (before I was willing to share my writing with others) from 2006.  Interestingly, I found that on this very date six years ago I was meditating on the Parable of the Sower from today’s passage.  I share here now what I wrote six years ago.

How did these soils get this way?  The simple answer is that each soil had an owner that created its condition, and in this parable the owner clearly is not God.

The “pathway” heart-soil has become hardened by the actions and choices of the owner and others.  Pathways are picked by an owner as soil that will purposely be trampled upon and rendered incapable of sustaining a crop.  Then these paths are worn through repeated use.  The owner directs others to use that same pathway, and trespassers will even use a path if available.  Habitual sin, misuse of our bodies and souls with others, and even unwanted abuse harden our hearts so that we will not listen to God’s word of truth.  We chose to use what was created to be pure and fruitful in degrading and harmful ways or — in one of those hard to rectify speeches of the Lord — others are allowed to snatch away from us, through abuse, the hope and love and truth we so desperately need.

The “rocky” heart-soil has not been prepared for the long growing season.  Whether from laziness or a desire to see an immediate result from his plantings, the farmer has failed to dig out the rocks that will stunt the growth of his immature plants, causing them to wither in the hot, dry summer months.  These plants are simply unable to reach the deep reservoirs of water below the rocks.  When we move too quickly from one spiritual high to another, trading an emotional high for the disciplines and experiences that really mature faith in the dry heat of suffering and divine silence, we produce heart-soil in which the fledgling sprouts of faith will also quickly wither.  In today’s world, our greatest obstacle to the deep reservoir of Spirit-water is our hunger for immediate gratification.  We are content to soak up the jolt of a worship experience but refuse to learn to control one’s anger.

The owner of the “thorny” heart-soil has also failed to prepare his land for successful growth.  The owner did not pull up the faster-growing, hardier thorns, allowing them to compete with the more tender grain shoots; this owner has simply tried to sow a new crop amongst existing plants.  Given that the thorns are identified as “worries” but also “riches and pleasures” it would seem that some of these thorns have intentionally been left to live alongside the grain shoots.  Both grain and thorns receive rain, nutrients, and sunlight, allowing competition to arise, but the thorns thrive.  When we fail to uproot the attitudes, desires, and behaviors contrary to the Way of Christ attempting only to add Christ to an already hardy life of worry, excess, and selfishness, our immature faith will flounder under the competition.  The Spirit will not live in a divided heart.

The owner of the “good, pure” heart-soil has prepared his plot with wisdom, effort, and patience.  He has removed the rocks and thorns, and loosened any packed soil before planting.  He tucked the seed into the soil away from the birds.  His plants will find moisture and room to grow deep.  His plants will remain free from competition.  We enrich our heart-soil for bountiful growth when we break the bonds of habitual sin; when we use our bodies and souls as they were intended; when we avoid abuse (to the degree we can); when we realize crop preparation is a time-intensive, long-term endeavor; when we patiently foster disciplines that feed our faith and cherish faith-stretching experiences; when we replace worry with trust; and when we uproot a life of selfish ambition and carnal gratification.

Which heart-soil is yours?

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8 thoughts on “Luke 8: How Is Your Heart-Soil?

  1. Debbie Miller

    An insightful reflection on this passage. I have mostly assumed that the types of soil were not by choice. I did not realize that Jesus intended his listeners to realize that the condition of the soil was due to the cultivator’s laziness and/or negligence as well as intentional factors. Thanks for this insight.

    • That’s what I am thinking. Luke says the good heart-soil people have what they have by “persevering” and also that “life’s worries, riches and pleasures” choke out the seed/good news from the the thorny heart-soil. A “time of testing” causes the rocky heart-soil person to fall away. As I read it, these all imply human action/inaction. In context, Jesus would be talking about the contrast between people in his audience, including the Pharisees. As Jesus clearly commends or condemns people for the choices they have made about what to do with him, I also lean towards my conclusion. Of course whether one sees humans as free will beings versus victims of hard predestination makes all the difference. I am a huge proponent of human freedom. Still, bottom-line, don’t accept anything just because I wrote it. Something to think about, though.

  2. Melanie

    I, too, have seen the soils as hands we are dealt, not hands we choose or are responsible for. Thank you for capturing and clarifying. I won’t read this parable the same way again.

    To respond to your question–I am the thorny or weedy soil. I allow the busyness of life to crowd out the important things.

    • I could be totally wrong. I spent a week with this parable six years ago when I wrote this thought, so it is not a hasty thought but I acknowledge my hard line on human freedom.

      I too am a thorny one, I fear. But God’s not done with me yet, if I will obey his daily direction.

      Jason Knight

  3. Umm Muhamamd

    Hi Jason,

    I happened to be listening to a commentary of the Quran last night. The similitude between what I heard and what is here is, it involves the types of hearts. Verse 74 of Suratul Baqarah states:

    {Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of Allah . And Allah is not unaware of what you do.}

    I’ll just paraphrase a little of the commentary about the first two types of stones. The three types of stones are three types of hearts.

    The first type is a kind of heart that is inherently good and is searching for the truth, and when it does find the truth, faith gushes out of it (like the river, i.e., water)

    The second type of heart is a kind of heart that needs a little rattling for it to crack so that faith can gush out of it. All along it has been in contact with the truth but it was heedless and busy with other stuff, so it needed a jolting that cracked it open.

    If you like you can listen to this commentary, it will be very good. I know you have read the whole Quran’s translation but this commentary will take you to a very different dimension of the Quran.
    Listen to the commentary of the verse 74 part 1 and 2.

    The first part is only about 15 mins. He gives such an in interesting explanation about the faculties of mind and heart and how it is related to God -consciousness (which we call taqwa) and ultimately faith itself.

    I hope you benefit by it.

    Umm Muhammad

    • Thanks for the link! I love the images that are so common in Islam. The idea of a stony heart bursting forth with water is so cool! Thanks for sharing.

      • Umm Muhamamd

        i forgot to mention one more thing: The audience being addressed in the above verse is the Children of Israel (Bani Israaeel); Allah says their hearts have become hard and it is amazing that He uses the parable of water gushing from a stone/rock. The Children of Israel are so familiar with this scenario!!!

        I really hope You do listen to the commentary, as we have something common in the story of Moses peace be upon him striking the rock and water gushing forth. I hope you benefit from the commentary like how I have benefited.

        Umm Muhammad

  4. “So be careful you don’t become misers of what you hear. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.”

    I don’t like greed. I don’t like it in me, and I don’t like it in others. But I don’t think I have ever applied the idea of greed to evangelism, as Jesus does here. Hanging on to the gospel, unwilling for whatever reason to share the good news with others, is just another form of greed. Such an interesting idea!

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