There’s always talk about the soil and seed parable Jesus recounted in Matthew 13. Besides the various others told around Iowa in the summer and fall, I have my own story to add.

My first experience with growing tomatoes was wonderfully successful.  Using a plot of earth in our backyard, we turned it over spadeful by tortuous spadeful (have you ever gone through grass and dirt with those old square spades???).  We then placed small tomato seedlings into the dark, rich soil.

Of course faithfully watering the plants came next and pulling weeds.  Then we staked the green stems as they grew.  When red tomatoes appeared weeks later, we were elated.  And they proved juicy.  The flavor was just like I remembered from my childhood.  Awesome!

We did the same thing the next year, but the weeds were harder to keep away.  By the third season, the weeds had taken over and were about impossible to control.  What had happened to my lovely tomato plot?

A firsthand learning experience had taken place.  We learned why farmers rotate crops.

They don’t plant the same crop in the very same place season after season.  (I should’ve known that, being an Iowa girl, but I was a city dweller.)  They also know it is important for the dark ground to be tilled deep in order to keep the weeds from taking root close to the surface and overtaking the good plants.  Nutrients have to be added to the earth to replenish it and continued careful watering and working of the soil, and mulching, is essential.

These seedlings need much care to develop into healthy plants.  How much more needs to be done for fragile little seeds?  Those often-tiny specks have to be warmed by the right temperature of soil, not blown away or eaten by birds, and then burrow their way both up to the light and down into the soil in order to survive.

As I study scripture and read the times Jesus refers to the soil to illustrate the importance of spiritual growth and foundations of faith, I can readily relate to his teaching.  Not only does Jesus tell the story of seeds and different soil, but he explains the meaning of his story to his disciples.  Posing this parable with my experience, the truth Jesus taught becomes really clear to me.  It seems to me, some will hear the Word of God without lasting results while others will hear and consider it and come to life in Christ.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are tools of cultivation God uses to produce generations of fruit.  If we exercise the gifts we are given, perhaps we will have the role of preparing the soil to receive the seed of the Gospel.  Another gift may function to nourish a person and through mercy or hospitality.  We may water with encouragement and exhortation.  Or maybe our job will be to protect from weeds of discouragement by exercising discernment and faith.

Whatever our role, there isn’t one thing we do that is “too small” to matter.  The soil of friends and neighbors needs to be prepared with love, watered with prayer and fed with encouragement.  What shape is your tomato patch in?  I pray we can all cultivate a harvest for God.

by Cindy Best

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