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Gospel of Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23 (NIV)
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Jesus’ explanation of this parable in the Gospel of Luke is explicit regarding the seed: “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8: 11). In Mark’s Gospel his explanation is is similar: “The farmer sows the word” (Mark 4: 13). “The sower” (or “the farmer”) is not identified in any Gospel. The disciples could have thought of Jesus as the sower however they themselves became sowers. We, too, are sowers.
Some of the seed fell among thorns. Jesus explained it this way: “the one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the (one) who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (verse 22).
For those of us who live in the relatively affluent West, “the deceitfulness of wealth”* represents a major obstacle to receiving the word of God and then to remaining in a faith-filled relationship with Jesus Christ. Wealth, comfort, reliance on riches (or on insurance policies, bank accounts, superannuation savings, state-provided health care and the like) can trap people into a false sense of security but these things cannot overcome death. The only source of security for eternity is the God who is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
We sowers should not be deterred because of the challenge that affluence represents. There will be good soil, likely already prepared by the Father to receive the seed. We are to sow that seed, trusting that Jesus will produce the crop in his good timing.
*Other translations give us “lure of wealth” (NRSV), “delight in riches” (RSV), “love for riches” (GNB) and “deceitfulness of riches” (KJV and NKJV).