O.K. Not everyone is into gardening like I am. But you have to admit, Jesus said several things with an agricultural twist. You might argue that he was talking to a bunch of farmers, shepherds, and fishermen and he chose to use examples they could relate to. What about us city folks that never get our hands dirty? How does this apply to us? One particular parable stood out to me as I have been gardening this spring.
And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” Luke 8:4-8
I grew up on a small plot of ground and learned to do organic gardening as a teenager. I quickly learned that one of the most important parts of organic gardening is the making of compost. If you are going to avoid synthetic fertilizers, you have to make your own fertilizer. Many things can go into a compost pile, the least of which is manure. Fallen leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps along with egg shells will turn to compost when combined, even in a city backyard composter. The only other ingredients are air and water. When these ingredients come together, they eventually make rich, life-giving soil.
Back to the parable of the seed and the sower. What made the “good soil” good? It was not a path that had been packed with footsteps. It was not a rock, that had been hardened by pressure. It was not full of thorns that had choked out its usefulness. The good soil had been carefully tended by a farmer with an expectation of an abundant crop.
So how can we prepare the soil of our hearts to receive God’s word and thus produce fruit? Jesus said in Luke 8:15, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
The first thing is to believe you do have a good heart. One that wants to do what God wants you to do. Paul said in Phillipians 2:13, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
The second thing is to be honest and understand that making compost is a process. It goes through stages. You make it slowly, not overnight. The fastest we ever made compost was 14 days but that was too much effort. Knowing and trusting that like Paul “learned” contentment in Philippians 4:11, we are in a learning process. It takes time for good soil to be made.
There are some ingredients that you can use to speed the composting process. We added a little dry molasses to our compost, maybe a handful of organic fertilizer, or some blood meal to speed things up. Reading our Bibles, praying, and meeting with other Christians are ingredients that will likely enhance the speed with which the soil of our spiritual lives becomes useful and productive.
I seriously doubt that the earthworms and bacteria in our compost liked being in a compost pile, especially on days when the pile got turned upside down. Remember, we need air and water to make compost? In life we will have situations that turn everything we know and think upside down. Some days the rains of life come in sheets instead of soft drops.
If you think of your life being like a compost pile, it not only contains some “manure-like” things but behind the scenes, in ways you and I can’t always see, God is at work make our soil fertile. When I go out to add my “compost bucket” of kitchen scraps to the pile, I scrape back the top layer and dig a hole. I am always amazed that the pile is working alive with all kinds of bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and other microorganisms that I can’t see, even with my glasses on and my nose almost in the pile. I add my collection to last week’s refuse, cover it with compost in process, and walk away.
Even if I don’t turn the pile for a year or remember to water it occasionally, God has set in motion through nature a process that causes it to produce good soil in my pile. Think about a fruit tree in the jungle. Maybe a human has never seen this tree. It grows, drops its leaves, they rot, and make their own fertilizer for the next season. Some ingredients don’t even begin to release their contribution for a year or more.
Are we willing to trust that He is at work in us and that His work will be accomplished in and through us? Can we trust the life He has put in the seed, buried in the good soil that He has created in our hearts? Do we believe it will produce crops that we will eat and that will feed other hungry souls? Is our faith in our ability or His?
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6