Two thousand years of tradition has produced a Parable of the Sower that is not what Jesus taught. Much of the traditional teachings of this parable have caused people to miss the truth.
The truth is in the Bible.
"The person who has ears must listen" (Matthew 13:9 BV).
This article takes you back to the Bible and presents the Parable of the Sower stripped of tradition.
Beware of tradition (what is commonly taught about a Bible passage). Always go to the Bible first, meditate on it, see what it says, understand what it says, and then consider what others say. The Bible should be the first and foremost voice. It is always right. Others are not always right.
It is likely that Jesus told parables and sayings over and over again. He didn't just tell them once. This parable in Matthew and Mark is one time that Jesus told it. Luke has a different telling of it. This explains why the parable is a little different in Luke.
I have combined what Jesus said below.
In each telling of these parables, Jesus first tells the parable and then at a later time He explains what it means.
The parable of the sower is in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-9, 14-20; and Luke 8:5-8, 11-15. These passages are written out at the end. They are from the Breakthrough Version - a more literal and more modern translation - breakthroughversion.com.
I have made certain assumptions from the progression and picture of this parable. These assumptions are marked with the word, assumed, in parenthesis - (assumed). For example, the first section (the seed along the road) did not grow and it is said that he did not understand the message. The others did grow, and so I have assumed that they understood the message (even though that is not stated in the parable except in Matthew 13:23).
This is the first point made by Jesus in explaining what this parable means. If you miss this point, you will miss the meaning of the whole parable.
What is the seed? Most people who explain this parable get this wrong. They say that it is the gospel message. That is not what Jesus said.
Jesus said that the seed is the word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19), the word (Mark 4:14), and the word of God (Luke 8:11).
What is a word? The way "word" is used in the Bible is outdated. Today, a word is a single word. In the Bible, sometimes that is what it means, but usually not. Usually it is a message.
So the seed is the message of the kingdom, the message, and God's message. Remember all of those parables when Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like...." That was Jesus throwing out seed. In fact, every time Jesus spoke about heaven or about what God says, he was throwing out seed. Was he telling people how to get saved? Sometimes He was, but usually He was not.
This parable shows the four ways that people responded to Jesus as He threw out God's message. It also shows the four ways that people respond when God's message is told today.
Sow is another old word. Do you know what sowing is? It is not simply planting. The sower did not go out to plant seeds one by one.
The sower hung a huge bag of seeds over his shoulder and walked through a field. He put his hand in the bag, grabbed a handful of seeds, and flung them out on the ground. He then took a few steps and did it again. This is sowing.
Many people plant grass seed this way. It is also how salt is spread on ice.
No matter how good the sower is, some of the seed is going to fall along the road, some on the rocky places, and some into the thorns. Most of it should fall on the good ground.
[Greek Notes - it is "along the road" in Greek, not "by the wayside"]
The seed that falls along the road is the person who hears the message and does not understand. This is the person who knows nothing about God, who knows nothing about spiritual things. He does not understand.
If I were to talk to you about computer programming, you would have the same reaction. It would go right over your head.
As a missionary in Russia, I often encountered these people. They had been raised in atheism all their lives. No matter how simple I made the message, some did not understand. Satan took that message away. It had no effect. It was as if they did not hear it.
This also happens when someone tells an unchurched person about salvation using church words. He does not know church words. The message of salvation needs to be told in his words, common everyday words.
He hears the message.
He does not understand.
The message has no effect.
[Greek Notes - it is "on the stony places" in Matthew 13:5, 20 and Mark 4:5, 16. "Stony" is an adjective in Greek (I use rocky instead). The word, "places" can be added to make it readable, but it should be in italics to show the reader that it has been added. The KJV adds "places" (Matthew 13:5, 20) and "ground" (Mark 4:5, 16) but does not put them in italics and does not translate "the" which is in Greek. The KJV translates "on" (Greek - epi) as "into" in Matthew 13:20, but as "on" or "upon" in the other verses. "Stony" is singular in Mark 4:5, but plural in Mark 4:16 (KJV translates both as singular).]
[Greek Notes - it is "on the rock" in Luke 8:6 and 13 (rock is a noun in these verses). The KJV leaves out "the" in verse 6, but not in verse 13. It translates the noun as rock here but the adjective as stony. To be consistent, it should either be stone and stony or rock and rocky.]
The seed that falls on the rocky places is the person who hears the message and takes (or accepts - Luke 8:13) it right away with happiness. It does not have root. He trusts (Luke 8:13) the message for a short time, but when hard times or persecution (or trouble - Luke 8:13) come because of the message, he is tripped (and stays away - Luke 8:13).
He hears the message.
He understands the message (assumed).
He takes or accepts the message. Acceptance is the first step of trust. Believe in the Bible means trust.
He only trusts the message for a short time. Hard times, persecution, and trouble trip him. They cause him to stop trusting.
[Greek Notes - it is "on the thorns" in Matthew 13:7; "into the thorns" in Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:7, 18; and Luke 8:14; and "in middle of the thorns" in Luke 8:7. The KJV translates all of these as "among thorns" except for Matthew 13:22 which is "among the thorns." So the KJV leaves the word, "the," out of each of these except for one and it translates the three different Greek prepositions as "among" when they are "on" (Greek - epi), "into" (Greek - eis), and "in the middle of" (Greek - en methos).]
[Greek Notes - it is "do not bring to the end" in Greek (Luke 8:14), not "bring no fruit to perfection" (KJV). "Fruit" is not in the Greek and should be in italics if it is used. The subject of this verb is plural and so refers to what the worries, wealth, and pleasures do. They do not bring the message to the end.]
The seed that falls on, into, or in the middle of the thorns is the person who hears the message and the worry of the span of time, the fraud of wealth, the desires of the rest of the things (Mark 4:19), and pleasures of life (Luke 8:14) come together, choke off the message, and cause it not to have fruit.
What is fruit? It is the result of the message. Its actual form depends on what the message is. If the message is that everyone should love God, the fruit is loving God. If the message is about how to pray, the fruit is prayer that falls in line with the teaching.
What brings the message to the end? Persistence (Luke 8:15).
Worries, wealth, and pleasures sidetrack people from being persistent with the message and so it is not finished.
People (yes, even Christians) who are controlled by worry, trying to get wealth, pleasure, or other desires fall into this category. God's message is not finished in them. They do not produce the fruits of the message.
He hears the message.
He understands the message (assumed).
He takes or accepts the message (assumed).
He trusts (assumed).
He is traveling under worries, wealth, pleasures of life (Luke 8:14), and other desires (Mark 4:19). These choke off the message and do not allow it to finish. They cause the plant to not have fruit.
[Greek Notes - it is "on the good earth" in Matthew 13:8, 23 and Mark 4:20; "into the good earth" in Mark 4:8 and Luke 8:8; and "in the good earth" in Luke 8:15. The KJV translates "on" (Greek - epi) as "into" in Matthew 13:8, 23 and as "on" in Mark 4:20; "into" (Greek - eis) as "on" in Mark 4:8 and Luke 8:8; and "in" (Greek - en) as "on" in Luke 8:15. So the KJV translates the prepositions in this section correctly once out of six times. Four times it translates "the" and twice it doesn't.
[Greek Notes - the Greek word for "ground" in this parable is the Greek word for earth.]
The seed that falls on, into, and in the good earth is the person who hears, understands (Matthew 13:23), kindly accepts, (Mark 4:20), and takes hold of it with persistence (Luke 8:15). He hears with a good and moral heart (Luke 8:15). The message is very productive in him.
He hears the message.
He understands the message.
He takes or accepts the message.
He trusts (assumed).
Following the teaching of this parable, here are four things that can make you more productive with God's message.
From the seed along the road - you must learn about God, Bible words, and spiritual things so that when God's message comes, you will understand it.
From the seed on the rocky places - you must accept God's message, trust it, and persist.
From the seed on the thorns - you must get rid of worries, desires for wealth, other desires, and pleasures.
From the seed on the good earth - you must hear God's message with a good and moral heart, take hold of it with persistence. Don't give up.
Here is an exercise to help apply this parable. Below are four questions. Below that are three messages that Jesus spoke in Matthew 6. Ask the four questions about each of the three messages.
What must a person know to understand this message?
What are some hard times, persecutions, or troubles that might trip a person up with this message?
How might worries, wealth, pleasure, and other desires stop a person from observing this message?
What are some fruits of this message?
"Save treasures for yourselves in heaven where neither moths nor corrosion cause it to disappear and where thieves do not break in, nor steal." (Matthew 6:20 BV)
"Do not worry about your soul, what you will eat or what you will drink, neither about your body, what you will put on. Isn't the soul more than the meal and the body more than the apparel?" (Matthew 6:25 BV)
"Look for God's empire first and His right way, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33 BV)
And He spoke many things to them in illustrations, saying, "Look, the one who seeds went out to seed.
And while he was seeding, some fell along the road. And when the birds came, they ate them up.
Others fell on the rocky places where they did not have much earth, and right away they came up because of the fact that they did not have depth in the earth.
When the sun came up, they were burned and shriveled up because of the fact that they did not have root.
Others fell on the thorns, and the thorns climbed up and choked them.
Others fell on the good earth, and they were giving fruit, some a hundred, others sixty, and others thirty.
The person who has ears must listen."
So you must listen to the illustration of the one who seeds.
Everyone who hears the message of the empire and does not understand, the evil one comes and captures up what has been seeded in his heart. This is the one who was seeded along the road.
The one seeded on the rocky places, this is the person who hears the message and right away takes it with happiness.
It does not have root in him, but it is for the time being. When hard times or persecution because of the message comes, right away he is tripped.
The one seeded into the thorns, this is the person who hears the message, and the worry of the span of time and the fraud of wealth come together, choke off the message, and he becomes unfruitful.
The one seeded on the good earth, this is the person hearing and understanding the message, who for sure yields fruit and produces, some a hundred, others sixty, and others thirty."
"Listen. Look. The person who seeds went out to seed.
And it happened while seeding; one fell along the road, and the birds came and ate it.
And another fell on the rocky place where it did not have much earth, and right away it came up because of the fact that it did not have depth in the earth.
And when the sun came up, it was burned, and because of the fact that it did not have root, it shriveled up.
And another fell into the thorns. And the thorns climbed up, came together, and choked it off. And it did not give fruit.
And others fell into the good earth and were giving fruit as they were climbing up and growing. And one was yielding thirty, one sixty, and one a hundred."
And He was saying, "A person who has ears to listen must listen."
The person who seeds, seeds the message.
These are the people along the road where the message is seeded. And when they hear, right away the Opponent comes and takes away the message that has been seeded into them.
And these in the same way are the people seeded on the rocky places, who, when they hear the message, right away with happiness they take it.
And they don't have root in themselves, but they are for the time being. After that, when hard times or persecution happens because of the message, right away they are tripped.
And others are the people seeded into the thorns. These are the people who heard the message,
and the worries of the span of time, the fraud of wealth, and the desires concerning the rest of the things, as they travel into them, come together and choke off the message. And they become unfruitful.
And those are the people seeded on the good earth, any who hear the message and kindly accept it. And they yield fruit, one thirty, one sixty, and one a hundred."
"The one who seeds went out to seed with his batch of seeds. And while he was seeding, certainly there was a seed that fell along the road and was trampled on. And the birds of the sky ate it.
And a different seed fell down on the rock. And after it sprouted up, it shriveled up because of the fact that it did not have moisture.
And a different seed fell in the middle of the thorns. And when the thorns sprouted up together with it, they choked it out.
And a different seed fell into the good earth. And when it sprouted up, it produced a hundred times the fruit." As He said these things, He was hollering, "The person who has ears to listen must listen."
This is the illustration. The batch of seeds is God's message.
The people along the road are the people who heard. After that, the Accuser comes and takes the message from their heart so that they might not trust and be rescued.
The people on the rock are the ones who when they hear, accept the message with happiness. And these people do not have root. They trust for a while, and in a time of trouble, they stay away.
The seed that fell into the thorns, these are the people who heard, and traveling under worries, wealth, and pleasures of life, they come together, are choked off, and did not bring it to the end.
But the seed in the good earth, these people are any who heard the message with a moral and good heart. They take hold and yield fruit with persistence.