We almost always call it “The Parable of the Sower,” but the Sower isn’t the key focus of the lesson. The Sower (or farmer) is Jesus in each telling (Mathew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8), and His role doesn’t change. Likewise, the seed he sows/plants doesn’t change. It represents the Word of God in each story. The key focus of the lesson is the soil, and the soil represents our hearts.
So, “The Parable of the Hearts” goes like this. Jesus entered His field (the world) and scattered His Word. Literally, He “broadcasted” it (a method of sowing seed), meaning that He sent it out into all directions, so that everything was covered. He didn’t discriminate about where the truth went; He just allowed it to fall where it landed.
Those who hear it have four types of hearts:
- Hard Hearts – Those who have hearts so hard that nothing could grow in them.
- Shallow Hearts – Those who have hearts where truth can grow but not flourish, because it can’t go deep. Difficult times make it wither.
- Choked Hearts – Those who have hearts where truth can grow but not flourish, because worry, fear, comfort, wealth, and desire choke it out.
- Fertile Hearts – Those who have hearts where truth can grow and flourish.
Luke makes it clear that those with Hard Hearts are not saved, but I think a strong case can be made that we will see the rest in heaven. Shallow hearts and Choked Hearts don’t realize their true potential, but the seeds of truth do grow in them for a short period of time. They are like Christians who allow themselves to be deceived by Satan and settle for less than the abundant fruit that Jesus said was possible.
Now look at the parable from a different angle. The four types of hearts can really be used to describe just one Christian heart in its different patches of soil.
- Hard Heart – There are places in my heart that are hard to God’s truth. Like the pathway in the parable, these places have been trampled down by the world. These are the places I’m not yet willing to trust to His care – places of hurt and fear. The seeds of His truth can’t even break the surface, so Satan comes and snatches them away.
- Shallow Heart – Other places are quick to receive the seed. For example, I may fully agree with my pastor that I should love my neighbor…in principle. As long as I’m not tested in this area, I may seem very godly to those around me. But if my neighbor mistreats me or fails to meet my expectations, God’s truth will wither in the heat of my anger.
- Choked Heart – Some parts of my heart are choked with a desire for comfort and safety. I know I should trust God to use me however He sees best, but “please don’t make me a missionary to Africa, Lord!”
- Fertile Heart – Thank goodness there are also places in my heart where I’ve learned to trust God completely, where He is working to produce an incredible harvest. I’ve got to work hard to keep the weeds out, but if I’ll acknowledge a young weed to the Lord, He will remove it for me.
Our hearts are a garden full of different kinds of soil, and daily we are presented with opportunities to let the great Gardener go to work in them. If we will let Him, He will break up the hard soil, clear up the rocks that make the shallow soil shallow, pull the choking weeds and continue to fertilize the areas where the soil is rich and deep.
It’s hard work that never ends this side of heaven, but each day, the great Gardener shows up ready to work. All we have to do is to invite Him into the garden.