We are studying in Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. The last three weeks we clarified that of the three main characters; the sower, the seed, and the soil, only one character changes. The soil. So the logical understanding is that there are four types of persons who hear the Word of God.  We’ve also learned that before you sow, you first must plough the soil and we’ve discussed what it means to clear the rocks and pull the weeds. The previous blog we saw how contextualization is helpful, but not impactful when it comes to altering the hearts and minds of those we are trying to reach. And impacting the soil, not the sower, is what ploughing is all about.

The best farmers understand preparation. They buy the finest equipment and learn how to repair it. They study the soil, they find sources of water, and know the nutrients within their ground. The best sowers first prepare themselves to sow, but once the farmer is ready, he then needs to prepare the soil before sowing any seed.

I have a doctorate in intercultural studies. I have an MDIV.  For nine years I studied to achieve those two degrees.  In addition, I’ve trained in at least seven evangelistic methods specifically designed to plant churches among unreached peoples. I’ve read maybe 60 books on how to win Muslims to Christ and a handful on how to win Buddhists.  But not one, not one of these books or courses taught me how to work the soil.

“LISTEN!” Jesus says, A good sower works the soil before sowing any seed. 

Think about this. Who makes the soil ready for the seed? The soil itself? No the sower does. Who waters? Who fertilizes? The sower.  It’s the sowers assignment to prepare the soil BEFORE planting any seeds.  Now I know a few of you are thinking, well it’s God’s job to prepare the soil. WRONG! Well either you’re wrong or Paul’s WRONG cause Paul tells us,

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6

God manages the seed. Tending the soil is our responsibility. Not angels. Yours and mine. God grows the seed; but through us, with us, He uses us to prepare the soil. This is the assignment of every sower. If we are going to see a harvest, before we sow, we need to plough.

Some maybe thinking, well what about the three verses where Jesus talks about the fields that are ready for harvest?  I asked the Lord the same question. Read the texts. In Matthew and Mark which are synoptic passages, He’s been ploughing, watering, fertilizing – working the soil for at least a year in advance of these teachings. Jesus is an expert farmer. He’s prepared Himself and He’s prepared the ground. The seed has been dropped so the harvest is near. But if we’ve only prepared ourselves and not the soil, we can plant thousands of seeds but they are not going to grow and bear fruit that will last because the soil is hard, stony or full of thorns.

In the Gospel of John where Jesus speaks of the “hard” Samaritans, He was in the very process of teaching the hard headed and hard hearted disciples that the Gospel was even for the hated half breed Samaritans. Read Matthew 13 again. The context of this parable in both Matthew and Mark is the people – the people who are blind and deaf to who Jesus is. I believe many of Jesus’ disciples, both then and now are blind to who Jesus is. We have only a snapshot of Jesus and so build our strategies around what we know–ourselves–rather than Him and the people He’s called us to.

I believe this is why we see Jesus investing so much time with the 12 and the 70. He is daily ploughing into their hearts and minds.

Are you working hard ground? I confess, for years I knowingly sowed seed on hard ground hoping for God to bring a harvest. And for decades I blamed Satan. And though Satan is certainly a part of the problem, the real problem is me. I did not understand that hard ground requires deep ploughing.

Next week, how to plough.



PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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