There are a number of things in my home that help keep measurements straight. Rulers, yard sticks, measuring cups and spoons, gauges on the hot water heater and the electric meter outside all keep track of what we’re using or the length, width and height of something. Perhaps the most versatile and handy measuring tool we own is the retractable tape measure. Jeff has pulled that out for numerous “fix-it” jobs and I’ve used it on occasion for hanging things on the wall and calculating whether or not I can rearrange the furniture the way I’d like to. In Biblical times the most important measures concerned weight because prior to a specific coin that designated value, how much something weighed determined its cost. Weights were often suspect because a dishonest merchant could tamper with them. Passages such as Mic. 6:11 condemn such practices.
While heights and value can be measured in tangible increments like inches and dollars, the success of a person’s life is measured differently. In our culture it would appear that the measuring sticks of success are wealth, popularity, talent and power. But Jesus presents an altogether different measuring stick in Mark 4:1-32. The chapter begins with the well-known Parable of the Sower (Mk. 4:1-9). Most often this parable is interpreted as an illustration of the effect of spreading God’s Word (i. e. evangelism). But I would contend that if one is carefully reading Jesus’ words you’ll see that the thrust of this parable is the soil. Each seed takes root, but not all of them are “successful”. After the parable’s introduction to His followers at large, Jesus explains it to a smaller group of His followers including the disciples. He tells them the seed is the Word of God and describes several scenarios where the seed takes root (vv. 10-20). It seems somewhat confusing that Jesus follows this explanation with two apparently random quotes about bringing a lamp into a dark room and discernment about what one hears. But think about it. If seeds must fall in useful soil, that is, if God’s Word must take root in the fertile soil of your life, then God’s light must not be hidden and what you listen to impacts the fruitfulness of God’s word (vv. 21-25). Mark follows these sayings with two more of Jesus’ parables: the Parable of the Seed (vv.26-29) and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 30-32). The first describes a farmer who recognizes the seed has taken root, matured and is ready to be harvested. The second proclaims that the mustard seed, though small at first, grows to a large tree which is beneficial to its environment. Each of these parables supports the theme of the first- proper soil produces a fruitful harvest.
One commentator in summarizing this section of Mark’s Gospel wrote, “The parable recorded in verses 26-29 appears only in Mark’s Gospel. It reveals that spiritual growth is a continual, gradual process that is finally consummated in a harvest of spiritual maturity. We can understand the process of spiritual growth by comparing it to the slow but certain growth of a plant.” God has equipped us with everything we need to grow into spiritual maturity just like a farmer makes sure his plants have everything they need to produce a harvest (Eph. 4:11-16). The question for us is, are we allowing the seed to fall in good soil? Are we bringing a lamp into a dark room and sticking it under a pot? Are we listening to things which nurture the seed or are we choking it out with weeds? Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “be careful how you walk” and to understand the Lord’s will (Eph. 5:15-17) meaning the things that we do, the words that we say, and the activities we allow to take up our time all have an effect on how well the seed grows in our lives. Spiritual growth is a continual process but its ultimate goal is to make us more like Christ (Col. 2:6-8; 1 Pet. 2:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:17-18; 1 Jn. 3:1-2). How is your seed doing?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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