In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable that is one of my favorites. I’ll paraphrase the main ideas here, but you should really take a minute to read it and mull it over. In the parable, a farmer is planting a field. As he is casting seeds, Jesus describes various fates as an allusion to how people respond to hearing about the good news of God’s kingdom. Some seeds are trampled or eaten. Others take root in shallow, rocky, or weedy soil and fail to produce a crop. Finally, some seeds fall into good soil and have a return of 30, 60, or 100 fold. And in the end, the only thing that really seems to matter is whether or not the seed bears its intended fruit.
As the people are left scratching their heads, Jesus explains the parable to his disciples. First, people are fruitful because they don’t really understand what’s going on. Second, people aren’t rooted enough to sustain growth over the time and to the degree that is necessary. Finally, the cares of the world choke out God’s word and prevent fruitfulness.
Character and Support.
Holy. (Set apart.)
I’d like to share a few thoughts on this parable from the perspective of a dad and a person who really loves to see God working in people’s lives. The truth is, if we’re going to become the men and women that God created us to be, we’re going to have to understand a few things about Jesus, about God’s kingdom, about how this whole thing comes together, and about what it all means for us. We’re also going to need to become a rooted people – we’re going to need to embrace the lifelong, tedious, painful, and extraordinary process of character formation as well the fellowship of others who can support, encourage, and strengthen us along the way. Finally, we’re going to have to be a different, holy people set apart from the world in our priorities, concerns, attitudes, habits, and behavior.
Because God is good and because he created us with unfathomable potential, we can expect that he’ll be working in us toward these ends as he shapes us throughout our lives into sons and daughters that are ready to inherit his kingdom and his reign over all creation. Our part is to submit to God’s work in us and to cooperate with him. In other words, invest yourself in understanding more about what God is up to in the Bible. Understand what was taking place in the big picture with Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. Embrace character formation and tweak your lifestyle to cooperate with God and to continue growing. Embrace fellowship with people who will catalyze God’s work in you. And finally, learn to be a different kind of person than the rest of the world despite the pain and the cost along the way.
These are the big ideas of Matthew 13 that I’ve been contemplating over the past several days. In Part 2, I’ll unpack them a bit more from the perspective of a dad (and friend and pastor) and offer some thoughts as to a way forward in response.