In Luke 8, Jesus tells the parable of the sower and discusses the meaning of soil in that parable.
4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Luke 8:4-8 (KJV)
In verses 11-15, Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of the parable and how it demonstrates the four conditions of people’s hearts.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. Luke 8:11-15 (KJV)
According to verse 11, the seed is God’s Word. The interesting thing is that the parable does not make the seed responsible for the quality of the harvest produced. Jesus clearly places the blame (or credit) for the level of harvest on the soil, which represents the condition of our hearts. God’s Word, the seed, is perfect and infallible. It cannot fail. But, our hearts can hinder the Word’s ability to produce in our lives.
In verse 12, He shares the meaning behind the seed that fell on the path. He said that it represents those who hear, but the devil comes and steals the Word from their hearts before they have a chance to believe and be saved. John 10:10 says the thief (satan) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. This is the ultimate crime, since anything good we get comes through the Word and faith in the Word. The devil will do everything he can to prevent anyone from believing the Word.
Verse 13 covers those who receive the Word on the rock- they actually receive the Word with joy, but it cannot take root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing, they fall away. Our hearts cannot be rock hard- they must be pliable to receive and retain the Word. Thus, we won’t fall away during testing, but we will hold onto the Word to keep living for Jesus.
In verse 14, He discusses the seed that fell among thorns, and tells that it describes those who hear the Word but as they go on their way, the seedling is choked out by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures and the plant does not make it to maturity. We must keep worry out of our hearts to continue to grow in God. When we worry, problems become bigger to us than God’s promises, and His Word cannot prevail. In addition, we must keep riches and pleasures within proper limits. It is fine to use wealth to advance God’s kingdom, but we must take care that wealth is not our central focus. And seek godly pleasure rather than worldly pleasure. The greatest pleasure comes from God’s Word and His presence, for only Jesus can truly satisfy us.
Verse 15 tells of the healthy soil of a noble and good heart; one who hears the Word, retains it, and by persevering produces a crop. This heart condition overcame the same hindrances and obstacles faced by the other three but made it through to a successful harvest. They guarded their hearts to keep the devil from stealing the Word through offenses, trial, troubles, and cares. They kept believing with joy and became firmly rooted. They continued to walk in love and did not fall away. They learned to cast their cares on the Lord to trust Him and rest in Him. And they kept riches and pleasures in the proper perspective. In doing all these things, the seed took root in them and matured to produce a fine crop of both spiritual and natural fruit in their lives.
Remember, we are responsible for the condition of our own hearts. As we make the right choices and follow through with them, we will keep our hearts right before the Lord- and His Word will produce a wonderful harvest for us.