bread, discernment, discipleship, faith, field, grain, Holy Spirit, kingdom, our hearts, seed, sower

The Parable of the Growing Seed, #21

Mark 4:26-29

 “The kingdom of God is like this,” he said. “A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day; the seed sprouts and grows, although he doesn’t know how.” 

“The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the full grain on the head. 29 As soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

From a seed to a plant. We have no idea how this happens, it just does. This is a “kingdom” parable, one of several that explain what God’s realm is, and how it happens. In this particular story, we’re told how the Holy Spirit works. It also explains our role in this (which isn’t a whole lot).

The farmer puts the seed in the ground—and that’s it. He’s done his work, there’s nothing more he can do. He doesn’t do anything else from this point, and honestly he can’t. And yet the soil needs to be prepared—plowed, fertilized and tilled again. You might say he creates the conditions (that’s what makes a good farmer, I guess) for something to happen.

He doesn’t massage the seed, coaxing it to grow. He doesn’t sing to it, or tell it about the wonders of being lush and green. He does zero. The seed grows on its own. He goes to bed, and gets up. After several days, bingo! That seed turns into a plant—something green and alive. He doesn’t do a thing. Life occurs without his work.

The point is this. God’s work is done invisibly within us (and that’s a relief)!

“The secret of growth is in the seed, not in the soil nor in the weather nor in the cultivating. These all help, but the seed spontaneously works according to its own nature.”

Robertson’s Commentary

God’s kingdom works pretty much like this. The farmer doesn’t cause the seed growth, all he does is go to bed! He sleeps and waits and watches. It grows and he hasn’t the slightest. It’s a complete mystery. He has done everything he can, and God has done the rest. He “shares” in this amazing transformation, but the father has done it all.

We trust in a process we cannot see, or really understand.

We don’t dig the seed up every morning to see what’s happening. We just let the (super)natural happen. And it does!

The farmer has faith in the process (after all, he did plant the seed), but that’s it. There’s a verse in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 the should be considered. It gives us confidence and a definite trust in this process of growth. The Apostle Paul understands this “principle of growth.”

“We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing.”

We must trust God completely to grow. We’re responsible for tilling and planting. But you need to understand what happens after that is up to him. The kingdom of God is supernatural. It’s exactly how the kingdom happens—and we must be patient and wise.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

Arnold Glascow

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discernment, discipleship, father, field, grace, Jesus, kingdom, our hearts, work

The Vineyard Workers, #19

Matthew 20:1-16, CSB

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers on one denarius, he sent them into his vineyard for the day. When he went out about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So off they went. About noon and about three, he went out again and did the same thing. Then about five he went and found others standing around and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him.

“‘You also go into my vineyard,’ he told them. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.’

“When those who were hired about five came, they each received one denarius. 10 So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. 11 When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: 12 ‘These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day’s work and the burning heat.’

13 “He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? 14 Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’

“So the last will be first, and the first last.”

The market place in a first century Jewish community was also the hiring office. Land owners who need laborers would come there early in the morning to get day laborers. If you needed a job that’s where you went. Typically, you brought the tools, and waited until you were hired for the day’s work. The standard pay was a denarius a day.

Agriculture was always an irregular business. There were times when no workers were necessary, and then there were times (harvest) when you couldn’t have enough. Grapes were the biggest crop, and vineyards needed to be cultivated, but that took only a few; and probably more skilled men.

The weather was always an issue, harvest time and the rainy season happened pretty much at the same time. The trick was to get the harvest in as soon as possible. It was always a race against time, rains could come at any moment, and if they came too early, the entire crop would be lost. That’s why even a worker who only worked just an hour was welcomed.

The work day was divided up into four 3 hour increments: 6–9–12–3–6.

After the 6 am group was hired, the landowner made four other visits to the market place. Laborers were needed in the worst way—he would take anyone, even if only for an hour. Things were critical, and every worker made the difference. With each group, he told them that their wages would be appropriate. This was his agreement with them. “I’ll give you whatever is right.’”

When the day was done, a table was set up; the day laborers stood in line, the men who were hired last went first. They received a full day’s wage for just one hour’s work! The one-hour guys couldn’t believe it. This was generosity in the extreme. They were elated.

Word quickly spread down the line. The men who worked the hardest—(they were the dirtiest and sweatiest), just knew that they were going to get even more than they ever expected. They were already figuring out in their heads their adjusted wages were going to be. “If the landowner was forking out a full days wage for just one hour’s work, we’re going to get far more.”

Surprise!

It’s not going to happen. Everyone down the line gets one denarius. It doesn’t matter how hard you worked, or how long or how many blisters you got. Everyone gets the same! That dear one, didn’t seem right or fair. The Greek word used here is γογγύζω, we translate it as “grumble, muttering or angry whispering. To be extremely discontent.” They were offended. Plain and simple.

The guys who worked all day complained. It wasn’t right. They confronted their employer, “how could you do this to us?” They were angry. What the landowner did, in their minds, was wrong—how could he “reward” those who barely broke a sweat. “You made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day’s work and the burning heat.”

Verse 16 smashes our conceptions of law and grace.

The law tells us that we get what we deserve. That seems logical; everyone receives what is reasonable. We like the logic of it. But grace doesn’t work that way. Law is man’s perspective; grace is God’s. We don’t understand it, it doesn’t compute. We “get” the law, it’s an automatic; it makes sense to us—grace on the other hand is foolish. “Who in the world gives out salvation to those nasty, evil people?”

God deals with us according to who He is, not according to who we are.

The landowner isn’t unfair to anyone—true, he’s more generous to some, but he’s not wrong or unreasonable to anyone. We read this in verse 13. He has been completely appropriate. He paid what he said he would. Grace is totally foreign to us, we find it offensive. We can’t understand it—we come to God complaining about the grace he lavishes on junkies and homosexuals.

I shudder to think that I’ve accused him of being too merciful, too gracious to some others. The reality is that we deserve nothing. If God gave us what we deserve, none of us would be here, we’d all be damned to hell. But he is good to all of us. And really, in the final analysis, what does it matter if we’re the first or the last? I should be thrilled that someone else is blessed by a grace that they never deserved.

I get it mixed up sometimes, and I don’t really understand it.

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An Unworthy Servant, #14

Luke 17:7-10

“Which one of you having a servant tending sheep or plowing will say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? Instead, will he not tell him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, get ready, and serve me while I eat and drink; later you can eat and drink’?” 

“Does he thank that servant because he did what was commanded? 10 In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we’ve only done our duty.’”

“The will of God for your life is simply that you submit yourself to Him each day and say, “Father, Your will for today is mine. Your pleasure for today is mine. Your work for today is mine. I trust You to be God. You lead me today and I will follow.”

    Kay Arthur

Really now. What little we give determines so much, since we owe him so much. The service that we can give to our master is just a small repayment for everything. Settle that now and God will use you.

Question: Is the master unfair? Does he lord his authority over the servant–taking advantage of him? Every time I read this passage, questions like this always comes up.

#1, the Holy Spirit really hasn’t taught me yet. That’s very possible. Until he does, the parable isn’t truly understood.

#2, I’m a product of my country, no such things like slaves, we’re a democracy. Equal rights and all that jazz.

#3, It’s purposefully constructed to create issues in my mind and heart. Something that “irritates” me–but in a good way.

And maybe they’re all true. But no matter how I “squeeze” out this parable, I always hit this spiritual speed bump. But I like it, and I love reading it, no matter what it does to me.

We owe everything to him. Plain and simple.

Jesus wants to be my master. I’m his servant (at least I really want to be). Reading this parable puts this idea into a real perspective. I do like this verse, 1 Corinthians 6:20, in the CEV:

“God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God.”

A transaction has been made for your soul. God has intervened, and he’s given you salvation. We have a life now that will give us life, eternally. Since he is our master, we can no longer direct our own lives. Like the “unworthy servant” in verse 10, we now walk forgiven and very much redeemed. And we owe it all to him, he’s our savior and our master.

“The question in salvation is not whether Jesus is Lord, but whether we are submissive to His lordship.”

   John MacArthur

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Those Sneaky Weeds, #2

Can You See the Difference?

Matthew 13:24-30

He presented another parable to them: 

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’”

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he told them.”

“‘So, do you want us to go and pull them up?’ the servants asked him.”

29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you pull up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but collect the wheat in my barn.’”

Jesus is still sitting in the fishing boat. And he’s still spinning his stories that are true–they’re revealing what God’s rule is like in a human heart, the Church and the world. If we want too, we can imagine sitting on the shore, just watching and hearing him teach us. Wouldn’t that be great!

This parable is sort of funny in a way. A man has finished sowing seed, and that night, and someone (the passage calls him an enemy) sneaks in and starts spreading bad seed on top of the good. Why he did this is a bit of a mystery? Most likely there was some kind of an issue–bad blood I guess.

The seed the enemy used was known as “bastard wheat.”

The King James use the word “tares” which is probably a kinder word. It looked like the regular stuff in every way, except it didn’t developed a head, it never produced any grain. All it did is rob the soil. It had no value to anyone, it was worse than worthless.

It was at that point that the foreman informs the landowner of the situation. He comes to him with questions (they seem thoughtful, and perhaps he’s just thinking out loud.) The landowner knows good seed was used, and this bastard wheat must’ve been sown by someone else.

An enemy did this,” was the only possibility they came up with. The servant wonders what needs to be done. The logical thing is to walk through the field and pull out the weeds. To him that was the only reasonable option they had.

But the landowner decides to do nothing, he simply would wait and let them grow up together. He would be patient. But there will be a harvest, and at that time there will need to be a sorting process. It’s then that the reapers will pull out all the bad, collect them in bunches and have a big bonfire.

The good wheat, the ones with a head, will be collected and stored.

It’s the “wait and see” perspective that interests me. The landowner isn’t losing any sleep over this–the enemy may have done evil against him, but it really isn’t an issue. He knows that, in the end, things will work out. He responds appropriately to a situation that others in his place wouldn’t have done.

The final harvest would mean separation of the tares from the wheat–the real from the false. In a real way, this parable explains the conclusion of the Kingdom. When it’s all said and done, those who haven’t produced will not go with those who have. A fire awaits at the end. I think you can figure out what that means.

It seems that the servants are the ones who see the difference, they see the authentic grow up with the false, and all they can do is wait and watch. But believe you me, the harvest will certainly come. It’s critical that we be those who bear fruit.

“The amount of time we spend with Jesus – meditating on His Word and His majesty, seeking His face – establishes our fruitfulness in the kingdom.”

    Charles Stanley

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A Seed Sower, #1

Van Gogh (obviously)

Luke 13:3-9 (context 13:3-23)

Then he told them many things in parables, saying, “Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it grew up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it. 

Still other seed fell on good ground and produced fruit: some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown. Let anyone who has ears listen.”

Luke 3:3-9 (context 13:3-23)

Jesus loved to tell stories. Each of them were jam-packed with truth, and the people loved them. In verse 2, we see the popularity of Jesus–just imagine a preacher doing this today. The people were entranced by our Lord Jesus. They followed him throughout his earthly ministry.

If you were his disciple, you had better get used to crowds.

This parable, believed to be one of his first, begins with the word, “Consider,” and really, isn’t that the needed quality one must have? In the original it simply means “to see.” But it’s also in the imperative–a command. Seeing isn’t really an option–maybe a good word today would be, “Look!” (And using an exclamation mark.)

This is all about receptivity to the Kingdom of God. It concerns seed that is sown indiscriminately–the sower isn’t assessing the ground conditions. He just throw the seed. That’s his job, and he seems to do a bang-up job of it. He “broadcasts” the seed, reaching in his bag and spreading it evenly, and quickly.

In some places the ground had been packed down, things were too hard. Others landed on soil, but it was only a skim of dirt, which wasn’t enough to support any growth.. And yet the third scattering made it to into the thorns. So there was three different possibilities, which none were ideal.

But there was a fourth.

Seed that landed right where it should–good soil, fertile, tilled and ready. The first three were all wrong, but the parable isn’t given to find fault–no one was to blame. And certainly not the sower, he was merely doing what was necessary.

The parable is meant to explain how the Kingdom enters our hearts. Our lives are the soil, and we all react to the seed differently. Sometimes, there’s no response at all, and “birds” get their breakfast. Sometimes, it’s all rocky, and nothing can grow there. Some tried to grow, but thorns and thistles essentially got in the way.

There are always four responses to the words of Jesus.

There was a lot of people sitting on the beach, and all were listening. But Jesus knew deep down that his words would only touch 1 out of 4, and yet he kept sowing. He hoped for good soil, but that wasn’t a given.

In verses 18-23, Jesus had to explain this story to his disciples, who always did seem out-of-touch with these sort of things. But I’m glad he did–Jesus, by interpreting this parable, gave us the keys that would unlock everyone of his others.

Jesus was never mystical or otherworldly, he didn’t cloak his words in imponderable mysteries like every other teacher longs to do. (Ego, mainly.) He didn’t want things to be an enigma, rather he wanted people to understand the ways and nature of God’s kingdom.

He wanted even the little children to get it–there were to be no secrets, only receptive hearts.

“The Bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.”

     Augustine

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