In one of her recent books, Beth Moore describes a trip she and her husband took to Angola. While they were in Angola, they saw children with signs of malnutrition. One sign of malnutrition in Africa is when the normally dark hair of the children turns blonde. In Angola, they saw many, many blonde children. In some villages, the farmers were so poor that they ate their seed for planting. Therefore, the crops were habitually bad. Beth Moore sees an analogy between physical hunger in Africa and the spiritual hunger in America. Too often, Christians go to church and receive the Word of God, eating spiritual food, without sowing it for a harvest. Here is the way she puts it:
“Some just eat the seed and never sow it for a harvest. You want examples? Why have many of us heard hundreds of messages on freedom, done every line of Bible studies like Breaking Free, wept over them, been blessed by them and even memorized parts of them, yet remain in captivity? Because we ate the seed instead of sowing it. Why have many of us read books on forgiving people, known the teachings were true and right, cried over them, marked them with our highlighters, yet remain in our bitterness? Because we ate the seed instead of sowing it. Why have we repeatedly heard how Christ has forgiven our sinful pasts, and sobbed with gratitude over the grace of it, yet we remain in bondage to condemnation? Because we ate the seed instead of sowing it.” 
This blog completes a series on the parable of the four soils by talking about being fertile and the harvest Christ can reap from our hearts if we will only give him open, humble, faithful, and fertile hearts. God is always sowing his Word into our hearts. God is always seeking to fill us with his love and grace. The question is, “Are we open to the growth of God in our hearts?” “Are we ready to allow God to grow a crop of love and wisdom in our hearts, sometimes in unexpected ways?” “Are we ready to stop just eating and bear fruit?”
For the last month, the “Parable of the Four Soils” has been at the center of each weekly article. The parable is about a farmer who is sowing seed in a First Century Galilean farm. Unlike many of his parables, Jesus took time out to explain the parable and the New Testament writers recorded his explanation. He began and ended the parable with the injunction to “Listen.” We began looking at the seed that falls on the rocky path. Nothing can grow on rock. Seed falling on a rocky path is eaten by birds (4:4). Some human hearts are like this soil. The good news cannot find any root, and the Evil One comes and takes the seed away (4:15). We looked at the rocky, shallow soil. Such soil permits some growth, but growth cannot last because the ground is shallow (4:5). Some people are like this spiritually: At the beginning they are enthusiastic; but, when hard times come, they have no depth, and their faith dies (4:17). Some seed is like seed that falls among thorns. Such seed cannot grow. Any growth is choked out by the thorns (4:7). People dominated by the worries of life, by the desire for wealth, and by other desires, are like this soil. Their faith is choked to death by their thorny heart (4:18-19).
The Good Soil
At the end of the parable, Jesus tells us that some of God’s good seed falls on the good soil—and it produces a crop, thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and sometimes even a hundred fold (4:8). A fertile human heart is like this soil: when the word of God falls upon it, it bears a crop of faith (4:20).
My great grandfather on Mom’s side was a farmer in Muncie, Indiana. He traveled over into Illinois, to just west of Muncie, Illinois, where he bought 160 acres of land, which he and his son farmed all of their lives, and which my uncle and cousin have farmed all of their lives. My mother, who grew up on and near the farm, was exceedingly proud of it. The topsoil in that particular part of Illinois is some of the best farmland in America. Year in and year out, in good years and bad years, this little farm produces a crop. Some years are great. Some years are not so great, but there is always a crop. Why? Because the topsoil is some of the deepest, richest topsoil in America.
The human heart is like this topsoil. If we have humble hearts (the word “humble” comes from the Latin word for soil), if we pray diligently both talking and listening to God, if we allow the Word of God to enter our lives in Scripture and in the presence of Christ, if we allow God’s Grace to transform us, and if we reach out in loving service to others, then we have a heart that will grow a crop for God.
The parable warns us that the Kingdom of God does not automatically grow in our hearts nor is it automatically felt in our lives. For the Word to grow in our lives, we must have hearts open to God. Our minds, our emotions, our will, our bodies, and our unique human spirit must be open to the Word and Sprit of God, so that we grow to become more like God, which means becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wisdom literature always begins with the injunction, “The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom.” I another work I have defined this “Fear of the Lord” as a Deep Respect and Awe.”  When we are open to God and revere God for who God is, we become open to the growth of his Word in our lives. When we become humble before God, the Kingdom of God finds a place to grow in our lives, as we trust in God and the Way of Christ in forming our character and guiding our actions. The result is a wonderful, fundamental change in our personalities and in the way we live and relate to other people.
The Good Seed
In any kind of farming, it is true as the old proverb says, “You reap what you sow.” No one ever sowed corn and got tomatoes. The kind of spiritual crop we will ultimately reap in the spiritual life depends on the seed we sow. If we sow the seed of God’s Word, if we sow the seed of the Good News of God’s love and mercy for the human race, if sow the Good News of the Kingdom of God, if we sow a seed of the kind of self-giving love God showed on the Cross, then we will certainly reap a crop that reflects the character of God and God’s intention fort the human race. In fact, the Kingdom of God grows up right in our hearts.
As we mentioned a few weeks ago, the seed in this passage is the Word of God Jesus came embodying in his life, and which God desires to be embodied in our lives. God desires us to become little Christ’s, filled with God’s Spirit and bearing a crop for Him. Receiving Christ is not the end of the journey of faith; it is its beginning. The life of discipleship is the gradual growth in our lives of God’s Kingdom and character. The point of coming to Christ is to become a disciple and to grow, change, mature, and deepen all the days of our lives.
There is a passage from Revelation, which reads like this:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).
These words, from the last chapter of Revelation, show God’s intention for the lives of the Apostles and for our lives. We are to be little trees of life drawing our spiritual sustenance from God by the power of the Holy Spirit, the water of life. And, we are to bear fruit—fruit that will heal our lives, the lives of those closest to us, and even the lives of those we hardly ever meet, even to all the nations of the world. The growth of the kingdom in our lives has consequences for everyone around us and for the entire world. What we do in our homes, in our families, and among our acquaintances has eternal consequences for us an for our world. Love is just that powerful.
The Incredible Growth
You might be thinking, “How can I possibly become a person who bears a crop like that?” “I am so broken or so immature or I’ve done so many things wrong, how could this possibly apply to me?” If you are a person like this, perhaps the way Jesus concludes this teaching in this area might be helpful. A little further in Mark, we read this:
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade (Mark 4:30-32).
Jesus is saying that the power of God is such that a very small seed of the Kingdom planted in your heart can grow and grow and become a great tree of faith—in fact it can become such a fruitful tree of life in you that your life will actually and really be a healing not just for you but for everyone your life touches.
As I have been thinking about this blog over the past week or so, I have been remembering trips to my grandfather’s farm. One of the things I remember is a certain smell in the springtime. Early in the spring, the farmers till the soil and prepare the soil for planting. If a spring rain occurs just as the soil has been tilled, there is a particular smell in the air. It is the fresh, fertile smell of soil just before the crop is planted.
Today, they don’t plant like they did in Jesus’ day. Modern computerized farming techniques permit farmers to place each seed just where they want it to be to maximize yield. If you were to drive by sometime in late April or May, you would not see a thing. But, if you drive by that farm in late July or August, the corn will be taller than a man, and the fields will be green with a harvest for miles and miles and miles.
The Kingdom of God is like this. When you’ve opened, softened, deepened, and fertilized your heart, you will smell something wonderful—but you won’t see the fruit. You won’t even see the seed. Later, sometimes months and years later, when you look, you will see the seed of God’s grace.
Just before the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus says the following:
This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come (Mark 4:26-29).
If you allow God to plant the kingdom in your heart, one day you will look back and see the crop—a crop that when it is harvested, you will not believe or understand or how it could happen in your life. In the beginning, faith looks like an awfully small, insignificant seed. Later on, it will be the largest crop you can imagine! It will be a crop of personal healing, of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your own character, and it will have sown itself into countless lives around you.
The Cross is the Tree of Life for Us.
In John, Jesus puts it this way: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). In the end, whatever crop any of us manages to sow and reap is dependent upon another sower—one who sowed his life for us. The final message of the Gospel is not a message for today. We will meditate on this message later in Lent. The hardest lesson of the Gospel is this: Those would enter the Kingdom of God and have their hearts and lives transformed, must take up a cross and follow the One who went to the Cross for us. The Kingdom begins with faith, but it grows with love—not just any kind of love, but a love that gives and gives beyond any human wisdom. It was that love God showed us on the Cross, and it is that love which finally transforms our lives.
Copyright 2015, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 Beth Moore, Stepping Up: A Journey through the Psalms of Ascent (Nashville, TN: Lifeway Publishing, 2007), 81.
 G. Christopher Scruggs, Centered Living/Centered Leading: The Way of Light and Love Rev. Ed. (Cordova, TN: Shiloh Publishing, 2010, 2014) and Path of Life: The Way of Wisdom for Christ Followers Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014).