“The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." – Luke 8:15
It’s one of the most iconic buildings in the world. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was only supposed to take a few years to build, but construction was interrupted several times by wars, debt and design modifications. You see, five years into construction, when the builders reached the third story, the tower began to lean ever so slightly to the South. The builders tried to correct the lean by making the remaining stories shorter on the uphill side, but the extra weight of the upper stories just made the lean worse. In the 600 years after the tower was completed, it kept leaning more and more. It became clear to engineers that the tower wasn’t just leaning -- it was actually falling at a rate of one to two millimeters per year. By the late 1980s, the tower was leaning by more than 5 degrees.
Do you know why the leaning tower leans? Bad soil. The soil it’s built on is too spongy. So, between 1990 and 2001, a team of experts worked to save the tower. They used gigantic steel cables to hold the tower in place while they dug wells under the foundation, drained water from the wells, and reinforced the foundation with concrete. If something hadn’t been done in the 1990s, the tower would most likely have toppled over by now. And their best guess is that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is safe for at least another 200 years, when—once again—the tower’s lean will increase. Because the reality is that the reinforced concrete foundation is still surrounded by bad soil.
We read more about bad soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Soils in Luke 8:1-15. Although it’s not the first parable Jesus spoke, it’s called a doorway parable because it serves as the doorway to his parable ministry, and because it holds the key to understand all his other parables. In the parable, a farmer sows seeds on four different types of soil, with different results.
To understand this parable, we need to know three things: 1) The farmer is a follower of Christ. 2) The seed is the word of God, especially the gospel message. 3) The soils are the hearts of the different people who hear God’s Word. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us plainly to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. That is our mission: to sow and nurture gospel seed. And in the Parable of the Soils, Jesus tells us that the seed may fall on one of four types of soils:
Bad Soil #1 Represents a Hard Heart. In the first example, some seeds fall along the path, where it’s trampled and eaten by birds. Jesus explains in Luke 8:12, “Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” So, the path represents a hard heart. These are the people who hear the Gospel message, but they reject it outright. The hard heart doesn’t understand the Gospel because it doesn’t want to understand the Gospel. It doesn’t want to be convicted of sin. It doesn’t want to change.
Bad Soil #2 Represents a Shallow Heart. The seeds that fall on rocky soil sprout at first, but then wither away because they have no moisture. As Jesus explains in verse 13, “Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” So, the rocky soil represents a shallow heart. These are the people who make a superficial decision for Christ. They receive the gospel message enthusiastically, but because their decision is shallow, at the first sign of trouble, they jump ship.
Bad Soil #3 Represents an Overcluttered Heart. In the parable, some seeds fall among thorns, which grow up around the new plants and choke them. Jesus says in verse 14 that these seeds stand for “those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” The third bad soil represents an overcluttered heart—people who make a half-hearted decision for Christ. The gospel seed begins to grow in their lives, but it doesn’t produce anything, because their hearts are distracted and are preoccupied with other things. Our hearts were created to serve one master: Jesus Christ. You either serve Jesus Christ alone or you don’t serve him at all.
The Good Soil Represents a Soft, Honest Heart. Yes, there is one good soil—the one that “came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (v. 8). This soil represents an honest and good heart—those “who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (v. 15). Bottom line: This good soil is the heart of a true Christian who is truly saved. He allows God’s word to take root in his life even when Satan attacks. She remains faithful to Christ during times of trouble or hardship. He offers Christ his full heart and refuses to allow stuff to clutter his heart. Christians with soft-soil hearts are going to Heaven. They are true, born again Christians.
Friends, let me ask you: How’s your soil? I encourage you today to examine your spiritual fruit. If you find it’s lacking, check your soil. Check your heart. If you discover that your heart is hard or shallow or overly cluttered, I urge you to go before the Lord and ask Him--beg Him—to work a miracle on your heart. If you allow him to do so, your fruitfulness for Christ in the days to come can greatly surpass your fruitfulness in days past.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.