Parable of the Sower

A. Little | 7.24.22


Parable of the Sower

Today we’re going to talk about a parable that I hate. And if you think that I’m saying I hate it just to add some shock value to get your attention because I’m unoriginal and shameless… then you’d be partially correct. But… there was a time when I truly hated this parable. Why did I hate it? We’ll get to that in a couple of minutes.

First, lets read the Parable of the Sower in Luke Chapter 8

The Parable of the Sower

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.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus tells his disciples and his now growing entourage this story about a farmer who is broadcasting seed in hopes that the seed would grow into a profitable crop. Now, this is a parable, and as such, Jesus doesn’t go into too much detail about this farmer, because focusing on the farmer in this story would be an exercise in missing the point. For instance, I don’t think we’re meant to focus on the fact that this farmer seems to be either wildly indiscriminate, horribly inaccurate, or woefully incompetent . I mean, this guy is just throwing seed everywhere. Pathways, rocks, thorns, everywhere? I’m like “Come on, now, rocks? Really??” But like I said, this parable isn’t really about the farmer, as much as it is about the seed. 

As Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seeds, there were four different seed scenarios with varying outcomes, only one of which represents an outcome that would be deemed desirable. Some seed, Jesus said, fell onto the pathway. This pathway seed was trampled on and eaten by the birds. This is a “not good”. Other seed landed on rock, or perhaps rocky soil, and due to lack of water, it dried up, shriveled up, and withered away. Again… Not good.  In the third scenario, the third seed fell among thorns… weeds… and,  though it began to grow quite nicely, it was eventually overtaken by thorny weeds.  This seed showed some promise, gained a little traction, but in time, this seed would succumb to death by asphyxiation. Jesus said the thorns choked it out. Also… Not good. And then there was the fourth type of seed. This seed landed in that good soil and grew into a high yielding, fruitful plant. This fourth  seed scenario, as Jesus would confirm a little later, was good… it had the desired outcome.

Ok, so that’s it. Like most parables, this one is rather succinct. After Jesus told this story, this disciples were like.. Okay..So some seed grew.. others didn’t. What are you trying to say? So Jesus answers them in verse 11

1Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 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.

So Jesus answers their request for clarification by explaining to them the meaning of this particular parable in verse 11. 

First, he says, the “seed” in this parable represents the word of God. 

And Jesus goes on to explain that the seed, or the word of God, is sometimes stolen, or taken away, by the devil. The word of God never takes root, never begins to grow, and, therefore, never amounts to anything at all. This, Jesus says, speaks of those who have heard the Word, but did not believe it, they did not trust it, and, therefore, they are not saved… and, of course, would never bear fruits of righteousness. That was the first scenario.

Then there was the seed that fell onto rock. Jesus said the rocky soil was like those people who initially hear the word of God and receive it with joy, but the seed never really establishes itself. The root systems never mature. It is never grounded. When winds, or drought, or other hardship comes along, the seed is unable to withstand, and, ultimately, it meets a similar fate as the pathway seed. 

Then there was the third seed scenario, the seed that fell among thorns. Jesus said this was representative of those who receive the word, establish some roots, and begin to grow. But, as they are growing, the thorns and weeds are also growing concurrently. Jesus says that the thorny weeds represent the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and, eventually, the cares of the world and the allure of wealth and pleasure would overtake the plant, choke it out, and make it essentially barren,  unable to bare fruit.

==Remember this third scenario, because this is where we’re going to spend most of the second half of this sermon today==

But for now, let’s continue by talking about that fourth seed scenario… the seed that fell onto fertile soil. This seed was well fed by nutrient-rich soil and would not only take root, but would grow, and grow, and continue growing, and it would grow so healthy that it would begin to produce fruit in abundance – in some cases one hundred fold! Jesus said this seed represented believers who not only received the word, and believed the word, but also held firmly to it with an honest and good heart. Jesus said these people would bear fruit in abundance…. with patience. Those who hold firmly to the Gospel with a good and honest heart, Jesus says, will be very fruitful. 

Again, a quick recap… four seeds, four landings, four seed cenarios with four different outcomes, only one of which was a good one. As we seek an application, I think our seeking would beg the question… in which of these four scenarios do I find myself? Am I the seed that died? Am I unfruitful? Or am I the one where there’s good soil, mature growth, and abundant fruitfulness? 

How wonderful would it be if we all found ourselves in that fourth scenario, the best, most ideal scenario where the word of God is growing in us, downwardly, upwardly, and outwardly…. and we are bearing fruits of righteousness in abundance? That would be fantastic! But I think, for most of us, that would be more so the goal, or the aim, and less the current reality. 

I think many of us, if we are truly honest with ourselves… perhaps we would find ourselves in that third category, where we are not as fruitful as we should be, or as we want to be because we find ourselves often distracted by anxiety, or lust for more, or the riches and pleasures of the world to which Jesus referred.

I think this is most of us, but then again.. I could just be projecting. Because this was most certainly me in recent years. Without question, I struggled with the pride of life and was distracted by the worries and riches and pleasures of this world. And, like I said before, it was in that season… that I hated this parable. I hated it. And when I say I hated it, I mean that my flesh revolted at it. My natural self, my “old man”, hated it. 

Why did I hate it? Two reasons. First, because it hit too close to home. it stepped on my toes.  It was too revealing, too convicting, and too eerily similar to my own reality. I saw my reflection too clearly in this mirror and I didn’t like what I saw. It was ugly. 

It wasn’t always like that, though. For the better part of my life “riches and pleasures of life” were of no concern to me. Greed, lust for money, power trips… nowhere to be found in me. The first eleven years of my adult life were spent in professional/vocational ministry. Most recently, from 2007 to the end of 2011, I served as a staff pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie. As an assistant pastor of a small to medium size church, my salary could best be described as meager. I was the sole earner in our young family of five, and it took a lot of hard work, meticulous planning, and creative budgeting to make sure that we always had food on the table and a roof over our head. And though it would get really really tight at times, the Good Lord always provided for us. At the time, having a modest salary and just barely eeking by didn’t really bother me. In fact, it was all I ever really knew.

Again, for most of my life I was used to meager earnings. And I was content to earn a modest paycheck. There was very little temptation for greed in my life. And during that time from my adolescence into my early thirties I was growing in my faith. I was zealous for the things of the Lord, and I was bearing fruit. 

But then, about 10 years ago, some major shifts occurred. For a variety of reasons, some more noble than others, I resigned my position at the church where I was employed. After a period of job searching I eventually found myself gainfully employed in the quote unquote real world for the first time ever. My role in this new job I had landed was primarily concerned with marketing and business development. 

And that’s when it happened. During the first few months of my new job in marketing and business development I became acquainted with this concept of R.O.I., which, as you may already know, stands for “return on investment”.  R.O.I. speaks to the return or yield you’ll get from the investment that you make. Now, this could be an investment of capital funds, an investment of energy, or an investment of time. In any case, one hopes to not only recover their investment, but to get a dynamic return on the investment. Like some of you… I had heard the “return on investment” phrase being tossed around before, but what had previously sounded like corporate speak or ad jargon was now a prominent factor and a major focus in my day-to-day life. 

I quickly became fascinated with this concept and improving ROI soon became the thought that would consume my mind. And I was decent at it. This  led to another concept with which I quickly became fascinated… the idea of earning potential. Before, when I was a pastor, the idea of earning potential never entered my mind. My salary, as meager as it was, was just a number I had to budget around. It wasn’t a reflection of job performance, my competencies, or my dedication. It was just a salary, and it wasn’t a lot, and it was pretty much set. And, to be honest, I didn’t think about it much.

But in this new job I quickly learned how to make a correlation between job performance and better pay. If I make this decision… If I invest this money… If I make this effort… Or expend this energy… there was a direct and often favorable correlation to a very handsome Return on Investment. And, again, I was fascinated with it. My fascination would quickly grow into an obsession, and this obsession would eventually become a competing interest with my desire to serve the Lord. Actually, to call this a competing interest would be unfair, because there wasn’t really much competition between these two desires. My desire to earn a better return, to yield more revenue, and to make more money easily won out and began to choke out and suffocate my desires to serve the Lord…. just like Jesus said it would. Where I once woke up and my first thoughts were “how can I love God, love my family, and love others best today”, my first thoughts in the morning became “how can make others, and, of course, myself, more money?”

I didn’t go full WuTang, but cash was starting to rule everything around me.

In time, this distraction, this temptation, this greed, this desire to make more would eventually choke me out, spiritually. It came to a point to where I had severely grieved the Spirit in my life, almost to the point of quenching it entirely. I was suffocating the Holy Spirit. And I was unfruitful. There were fewer and fewer fruits of the Spirit, and fruits of righteousness evident in my life. AGAIN JUST LIKE JESUS SAID IT WOULD BE

Now can you see why I hated this parable? It was too real. It hit too hard. It was indicting. It was damning. That third seed scenario was me to a “T”. Distracted by the cares and pleasures of this world and suffocating the Spirit…. And so I hated it

But there’s a second reason why I disliked this parable. To me, as I was reading it… it didn’t offer anything in the way of hope. It only offered an indictment, a verdict, and a sentence. This parable, in and of itself, did a great job of convicting me of my sin. Yes, I was greedy. Yes, I was distracted by the lust for more. Yes, I was getting choked out. 

But it left me wondering… “so what happens now”? I’m getting choked out… I’m dying inside… Is my fate sealed? What do I do?

One of the reasons this parable seemed so devoid of hope, to me, was because it seemed Jesus was talking about these four sower/seed scenarios in a way that marked these parable people with a permanent identity, with an unshakeable label,…. as though it was fixed in place… … calcified.. set in stone… and sealed. If you’re there, you’re there. If you’re a 2, you’re a 2. If you’re a 3, and I most certainly was, then, you’re a 3. And that’s it… you’re doomed. There’s no movement. There’s no growth. There’s no progression or leveling up to a 4.

I was reading it as a final judgement, a decree, an inevitable and inescapable damnation… and I hated it.

As I wrestled with this parable over the last few years and up until very recently, I began to realize that Jesus, when explaining the parable is speaking in present tense (not past tense). I was reading it as though it was past tense and finalized… but Jesus wasn’t. This may seem trivial, or overly nuanced… but.. to me, it was important observation because I, the way I was reading it, felt damned by my past. 

Things changed, and I began to hate this parable less (and eventually love it) when the Holy Spirit began speaking to me and teaching me that in this parable Jesus wasn’t issuing inescapable, inevitable judgement. He wasn’t  issuing a death decree… he was just dropping some wisdom on his disciples. Wisdom for the present.

He’s saying, in effect, you were that… you were a three (3rd scenario)… but now I am calling you to repentance and teaching you wisdom and giving you grace so that you may level up to be a fruitful 4.

Now within this wisdom of Jesus there is definitely a stern warning we shouldn’t dismiss. The use of strong language like “not be saved”, “choked out”, “fruitless”, “devil steals seed”, etc… ain’t there for nothing.  But, in this case, that doesn’t appear to be the primary point of the parable.

In this parable, it would seem that Jesus, in his infinite wisdom, is using this brief story to do two things:

To paint a picture of what a disciple should be and to offer a clear and concise call to action

First, Jesus is describing the IDEAL IMAGE of a disciple…

The first three scenarios, while differing in ways, have one thing in common. They all have a less-than-ideal, or, undesirable, ending. Together, the first three are used to provide contrast to the one good, ideal scenario. 

Consider the fourth scenario… the seed that fell upon good soil, and rooted deeply, and was nourished, and grew strongly, and was fruitful… This, according to this parable, is what a disciple should be.

Scenario 1, bad. Scenario 2, bad. Scenario 3, bad. Scenario 4… GOOD!

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.

By using the negative contrast of the first three scenarios, Jesus is able to more sharply illustrate and uphold the ideal image of a disciple.

In using this contrast, Jesus sends a strong message to his followers. Don’t be like this. Instead, be like this. Don’t be shallow or unrooted, don’t get distracted, don’t chase bread. Instead, get rooted (grow downwardly,), get nourished (grow upwardly, and bear fruit (grow outwardly).

In short, the ideal image of a disciple is that of one who is fruitful. One who produces fruit

Allow me to repeat this for emphasis… The ideal image of a disciple, according to Jesus, is that of one who is fruitful. One who produces good fruit.

So… therefore… And herein lies the Call to Action… If a disciple is one who bears fruit… then the call to action is… BEAR FRUIT. BE FRUITFUL. PRODUCE FRUIT. FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS


In this parable the sower of the seed intends for the seed to grow and produce fruit. In a redeemed sense, the farmer here is hoping for an excellent return on investment.. even as high as a 100x ROI! (hundred fold). And Jesus punctuated his explanation of the parable at the end by emphasizing the good outcome of the fourth scenario. He said “they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

Put bluntly… A disciple of Jesus is one who produces fruit!

This isn’t the only time in Scripture that Jesus talked about the importance of his disciples being fruitful. Not even close. Bearing fruit was a consistent theme throughout his teachings. In dozens of ways, and on several occasions, Jesus would convey to the disciples HIs desire for them to be fruitful. 

You’ve heard of “suited and booted”, but Jesus is calling us to be “rooted and fruited”.

So, then, we must ask ourselves… 

  • Am I bearing good fruit?” Am I a fruit-producing disciple of Jesus?
  • Are the fruits of the Holy Spirit evident in my life?
  • Are there fruits of righteousness abundantly evident in my life?
  • Is my ministry fruitful?
  • Am I leading others to faith in Jesus?

I hope you are fruitful. But if you are not… you must ask yourself why not? Why are you unfruitful? Why are the fruits of the Spirit lacking in you? Why are you not bearing good fruit in abundance?

Is it because you do not know Jesus like in scenario 1? Is it because you are lacking roots like in the second scenario? OR… are you like I was… in that third scenario… distracted by the cares and pleasures of this world? 

In any case… Jesus is calling you to repent! And turn to Him! And to be fruitful!

We’ve spent most of our time today focusing on the third scenario. Partly because it is my story, my testimony…. so I’m drawn to it. But more than that, I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of us would fit into that category… being distracted too often by the cares of this world and being “choked out with worries, riches, and pleasures of life”

Am I close? Is that you? Are you choking out the Holy Spirit in a pursuit for more? More money? More power? More pleasure? 

  • Are you riddled with anxiety over the current instability in Washington DC or on Wall Street?
  • Are you consumed with upward mobility or career growth?
  • Are you strong in your fiduciary duties but weak in your family and ministry duties?
  • Are you working too much and resting too little? 
  • Or what about the inverse? Are you resting too much and working too little?
  • Are you ears deep in credit card debt because you just had to have that bag?
  • Are you overly concerned with how others perceive you?
  • Are you overly indulgent in the pleasures of life?
  • Are you too busy chasing clout on Instagram?
  • Like I was, are you consumed by the lust for more?
  • Are you just filled with crippling anxiety in general… just constantly worrying?

It could be any or all of these.. or perhaps a million other forms of worries, riches, and pleasures. Whatever it is, you have to ask…

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?  If the cares and pleasures of this world are such a strong force trying to bring you down, and they have such a tight grip around your neck and are choking you out… WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

If you grew up in Sunday School you might remember the smart mouthed kid who’s answer to every question the Sunday school teacher asked was “Jesus”? Whatever the question was, their answer was a quick Jesus. Well, in this case that smart mouthed kid would be right, because the answer is Jesus. If you’re suffocating under the choke-hold of the cares and pleasures of this world, and struggling, grasping for air, you only have one hope… JESUS.

  • Only Jesus can loosen the chokehold, administer spiritual CPR, resuscitate you, and restore heavenly breath to your lungs… Only Jesus
  • Only Jesus can rescue you from the quicksand
  • Only Jesus can shine so beautiful that the silver and the gold and the bag and the clout and the cares and pleasures of this world start to look ugly in comparison

If you are not fruitful. If you’re choking out the Holy Spirit. If you’re distracted by the worries, riches, and pleasures of this world… Jesus is calling you to repentance. Jesus is calling you to Himself.

In John 15, Jesus says that the ONLY way to bear good fruit is to ABIDE IN HIM

John 15

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

I’m tempted here to preach a whole ‘nother sermon on this text, because this is so rich… there’s so much here… but I’ll spare you that (we’re running out of time)… let me just read verse 5 again, slowly, and may I ask you to pay close attention to every word …

{Lets frame it} Remember, the topic at hand is that of fruitfulness. Consider that Jesus says a disciple is one who bears fruit. And we’re asking “how do we become fruitful.. or bear fruit?”

John 15

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus is the answer. Jesus is the solution. Jesus is the seed. Jesus is the root. Jesus is the trunk. Jesus is the vine. And if we are going to grow in the gospel, we have to abide in Him. WE HAVE TO! Because apart from him we can do nothing.

What does that mean? To abide in Him? 

Here’s what James Smith said…

To abide in Christ, is to realize Him as PRESENT with us — and to act us under His eye. An ever-present Savior is one of our greatest comforts. Realizing Him as present — we exercise faith in Him, He is the object of our confidence and trust. Realizing Him as present — we daily set our love upon Him, He is the object of our affection and delight. Realizing Him as present — we thus become zealous for Him, and diligent in His cause. Realizing Him as present — we live in fellowship with Him. This fellowship is an interchange of thought, feeling, and purpose; we drink into His Spirit, become of His mind, and naturally seek His honor. We come to Him — but it is to receive from Him; and out of His fullness we receive, grace upon grace.”

Man.. that is good. May we all abide in Christ and be fruitful disciples.

If… If upon an honest, soulful introspection, you find yourself to be unfruitful.. then let me remind you… I can relate. That was most certainly me just a year or two ago. I was unfruitful. I was distracted by worries, riches, and pleasures of life.  I was choking. I was withering away.

But Jesus didn’t leave me there, condemned to die in my shame. Despite my fears at the time, and despite my feelings of hopelessness and immobilization… and despite my fruitless pursuits…  Jesus graciously, lovingly, and kindly called me to repentance. Jesus called me away from my greed, away from my lust for more, and called me back to Him.  AND. LET ME TELL YOU, HE IS FAR  MORE SATISFYING THAN ALL THOSE THINGS (WHICH, BY THE WAY, NEVER SATISFY)

I believe He has the same desire for all of us. Jesus is calling you to be fruitful. And if you’re not fruitful, Jesus is graciously calling you to repentance, to turn to Him, and to abide in Him, that you may be fruitful.

If I could sing… ya’ll… this is where I would break into chorus. But, alas, I’m as tone deaf as they come, so, in closing, I’ll merely read these lyrics from a well known hymn



Ok, we are now going to transition into taking the Lord’s Supper 

As we transition into the Lord’s Supper, we’re going to give all of you a few moments to prepare your hearts, minds, and souls for communion. So let’s take just a few seconds now to do that…. 

1 Cor 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said,[f] “This is my body, which is[g] for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  {Lets take the bread}—||||||—-  {Remember, at the end of this next verse let’s altogether say “until he comes” as we take the cup.}  25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.


Now, let’s read from 2 Corinthians chapter 9 as we transition into a time of giving..

The point is this:[b] The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

We have multiple ways through which you can give to the Gospel ministry. Cash app, text SMS, online, in person, etc.