Multiplying Our Insight
The Parable of the Sower in Matthew Chapter 13 contains important insight that many of us may overlook due to the translation of a key word.
The parable refers to those who “do not hear or understand” (v 13). It quotes Isaiah about people who “will be ever hearing but never understanding” (v 14). Again, “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts . . .” (v 15). In his explanation of the parable, Jesus said, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (v 19). “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (v 23).
If the Greek word translated “understand” in these verses simply related to comprehending or grasping the meaning of something, then Jesus’ parable would be about those who were blessed with a specific mental ability. But the parable is about fruitfulness, not intelligence or lack of it, because the “good soil” in the parable is very productive.
The word translated “understand” gives us the key to that productivity. It literally describes the process of bringing things together, such as bringing facts together to gain insight; correlating new facts with older knowledge; digesting or reflecting. That is, it’s the result of intentionally processing something to gain insight from it. This is something we can all do, even if we can’t easily comprehend things.
In the parable, the seed along the path represents anyone who doesn’t correlate, digest, reflect upon or process what he hears about God’s kingdom. In contrast, the seed sown on good soil represents anyone who intentionally processes what he heard, correlates it with what he already believes to be true, digests it and reflects upon it.
God never wants us to be passive in life. Instead, he wants us actively engaged in what he’s doing. He gives us options and urges us to choose the good. He invites us to meditate on scripture; to see evidence of him in creation; to ask, seek and knock; to present our requests to him with thanksgiving, prayers and petitions.
Some truths in scripture are obvious and require little effort to grasp. Others, however, will be grasped only by those who carefully digest what scripture says, then meditate or reflect upon it. Those who do so will gain new insight that is many times greater than the initial truth they worked to understand — 100, 60 or 30 times as much. The Holy Spirit will use that initial seed to guide them into many other truths and insights about God’s kingdom.