Friday, June 24, 2011

The Parable of a Cornstalk

Last summer, an interesting thing happened in one of our flower gardens. We noticed a cornstalk growing up on the edge of a small area we had surrounded with rocks and mulch. It shot right out of a crowded area between some rocks and plants that we had actually purposed to be there. I was so curious as to why a single cornstalk was growing there. We live in a suburban area where there’s not a cornfield anywhere in sight. The best we came up with for the origin was that a bird had visited a nearby feeder and had dropped a single corn kernel between the plants. Somehow, it got nestled in enough dirt and moisture to germinate and turn into a plant. We chatted about pulling it out but voted to keep it for awhile to see how it would do.

Over the course of the summer, we watched it slowly grow but from the start it appeared to be weak. It was getting the same water, sun, and nutrients that the surrounding, healthy plants were getting; but our little pet cornstalk just didn’t seem to be thriving in this environment. Around July, the top of the cornstalk tasseled right on time but the stalk was only about two feet tall. It was a dwarf of what it should be. But, the biggest problem with the plant was that it had no corn. “What good is a cornstalk that doesn’t have corn?” I asked. The experiment was over and I pull the plant out of the ground and threw it in our yard waste bin. It was obvious that this was a poor place for corn to grow. It needed space. It needed a different type of soil to be a healthy cornstalk. There was too much competition for the needed nutrients to help my cornstalk experiment grow.

Jesus loved to use everyday images to illustrate spiritual truths that shape our lives. These illustrations or stories were called parables. In one of his parables, Jesus compares people’s hearts to different kinds of soil. God, (the farmer), throws seed (his Word) to the ground (people). The soil then determines whether seed will grow. Some seed lands on a hard, packed path and is gobbled up by birds (Satan). Other seed falls on soil that is surrounded by rocks. That seed takes root but the plant dies because of the hot sun (problems and persecution). A third group of seeds falls on soil that is riddled with thorny weeds (the desire for wealth and the worries of life). The weeds are too much competition for the good plant and it dies. But, when the seed finds its way to good soil—it grows and multiplies over and over again.

As in many cases, Jesus would tell a parable to a large crowd of people but would not explain the meaning of the story until he was in private with his disciples. In doing this, he was grooming his disciples for their future job as Apostles—sent ones to share the Good News about Jesus. Here, he’s schooling them on the hearts of people. In other words, Jesus was saying, “Fellas, you’re going to interact with four different types of people. Each will respond differently to your message about me. Look for those who have hearts like good planting soil. You’ll know who they are because they’ll listen, accept, grow, and bear good fruit. They are the ones who will multiply this message. The other three types of people will need to make some significant changes to be my followers who produce meaningful fruit for my Kingdom.”

God has created each of us to produce fruit in our life. That fruit varies from person to person; but what is true of all of us, is that we are called to have the spiritual purpose of multiplying that fruit. The beautiful thing about this is that God plants the seed and he desires us to grow to be healthy, fruit-bearing people who impact our world for the Kingdom. The sobering side of this is that God asks us to cultivate the soil (our heart). We are the ones who are responsible to keep our lives from being hard packed, rocky, and thorny. I don’t know about you, but rocks and thorns appear in my life fairly easily. They don’t need much to bubble to the surface.

How would you describe your heart today? Is it cultivated, soft, and receptive to God’s truth? Are you ready for a season of growth? Any rocks? How about thorns? Anything stealing your time, energy, and passion from following God better?

It may be a good time to do some weeding.

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