Parable of the Sower
1. How does Matthew introduce the parable of the Sower?
THE parable of the sower is found in the gospel accounts of the disciples Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew’s history of Jesus Christ introduces it this way: “On that day Jesus, having left the house, was sitting by the sea; and great crowds gathered to him, so that he went aboard a boat and sat down, and all the crowd was standing on the beach. Then he told them many things by illustrations, saying: ‘Look! a sower went out to sow: and as he was sowing, some seeds fell alongside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell upon the rocky places where they did not have much soil, and at once they sprang up because of not having depth of soil. But when the sun rose they were scorched, and because of not having root they withered. Others, too, fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. Still others fell upon soil that was right and they began to yield fruit, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty. Let him that has ears listen.’”—Matt. 13:1-9, NW.
2. When and how was seed then sown, and what does the parable of the Sower illustrate?
2 In Jesus’ home country the sowing season commences in October. About the first of that month Jesus was born in Bethlehem and was baptized thirty years later in the Jordan river. The latter half of October the winter rains begin, but they are not so continuous as to prevent farmers from sowing seed for next year’s crop. The sowing season continues during this rainy period until the end of February. Before the beginning of January the wheat was planted, and after the first of January the barley was planted. But the barley ripened first, by passovertime. The wheat was harvested after the feast of weeks, or Pentecost, some fifty days later. The sower of those days held the basketful of seed with his left hand. With his right he scattered the seed, “drawing it out” or scattering it along the furrows of his plowed land. (Ps. 126:5, 6; Amos 9:13, margin) The illustration of the sower was given by Jesus, not to illustrate the general Christian harvest at the world’s “time of the end”, but the fruitfulness of his faithful followers and the unfruitfulness of others who come in touch with the Kingdom news during the so-called “Christian era”. The fruitful class gains life in the new world; the unfruitful class fails to do so. Why, we shall see.
3, 4. Who is the sower? What is the seed?
3 The fulfillment of the parable had its beginning with Jesus Christ, who earned the title “the Son of man”. As stated in his explanation of another parable, “the sower of the right kind of seed is the Son of man.” (Matt. 13:37, NW) He is the one to whom the great Cultivator, Jehovah God, entrusts the seed to be sown. The seed is a message: “the sower sows the word.” It is no message of human origin, but is one of heavenly origin and which men on earth were inspired to give. “The seed is the word of God.” (Mark 4:14, 15 and Luke 8:11, NW) It is particularly the message of God’s kingdom exercised through Christ. This message shows the opportunity for his followers to gain a place in the Kingdom with him by their complete faithfulness to God. This is indicated by Jesus’ expression, “Where anyone hears the word of the kingdom.”—Matt. 13:19, NW.
4 It is true that John the Baptist proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near,” but his proclamation did not reveal the sacred secret that the followers of God’s anointed King would have the opportunity to enter into the kingdom of the heavens with him to rule as kings. Jesus, and not John the Baptist, was the one who uncovered the secret: “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5, NW) So Jesus is primarily the sower, and God gave him the seed of the Word of the Kingdom to sow. But Jesus takes his faithful followers into the sowing work with him, and through him they receive the Word of the Kingdom to scatter. That is why the apostle says to them: “Now he that abundantly supplies seed to the sower and bread for eating will supply and multiply the seed for you to sow and will increase the products of your righteousness.” (2 Cor. 9:10, NW) Since A.D. 1914, the year when the “appointed times of the nations” ended, the seed has been the message of God’s kingdom as born or set up.
5. That the parable illustrates four kinds of soils shows what?
5 Jesus’ illustration of the four kinds of soils shows the four general kinds of persons who receive the seed of the Word or who come in touch with the Kingdom message. This seed is sown in their hearts or minds. Those who receive it and make faithful use of it in the proper way come under special cultivation by Jehovah God. No matter what man or men have to do with sowing the seed and watering it in the hearts of the receivers, these receivers do not become sectarians or followers of human religious leaders. No; they belong to God as his property, for he supplied the seed of the Word and it is his Word that they accepted. To such ones with whom the Word of the Kingdom was sown the apostle wrote: “You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9, NW) But in the course of scattering the seed, all kinds of persons as represented by the four kinds of soils get a witness to the Kingdom. The natural Jews were first to get it through Jesus in their midst. Three and a half years after his death and resurrection and his ascent to heaven the people of all the non-Jewish nations were privileged to receive the witness, yes, people of all classes, high and low. This fits in with the purpose of God: “This is right and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all kinds of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all—this is what is to be witnessed to at its own particular times.”—1 Tim. 2:3-6, NW.
THE SOIL ALONGSIDE THE ROAD
6. Why are those like soil alongside the road not saved?
6 Are you a farmer interested in different kinds of soil? No? Still you are concerned about living in a perfect new world and you want to produce fruit that will entitle you to life in that world, whether in its heavenly government or in its paradise earth. You want to avoid what will prevent your being fruitful in that direction, for you want to be just as fruitful as you can. You will therefore be interested in the illustration which Jesus gave of how you can do these things. So there are three types of soil that you do not want to be like. The first type Jesus explained to his disciples in this way: “You, then, listen to the illustration of the man that sowed. Where anyone hears the word of the kingdom but does not get the sense of it, the wicked one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart; this is the one sown alongside the road.” (Matt. 13:18, 19, NW) Soil alongside a road would likely be hard-packed, like the road itself over which the regular traffic passes. This hard surface condition would not let the seeds sown sink in but would make them lie exposed where the wild hungry birds could see them and pick them up. The seed never takes root or shoots up even a blade. For the seed of the Kingdom truth to take root in us and bear fruit it must sink into our hearts or minds, for it is with the heart that a person exercises faith for righteousness. Without faith we can never be saved; which is why Jesus said: “Those alongside the road are the ones that have heard, then the Devil comes and takes the word away from their hearts in order that they may not believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:12, NW) We must bear fruit in order to be saved.
7. With what prophetic description did Jesus compare the roadside hearers?
7 The roadside hearers of God’s Word who lose even what they had Jesus compared with Isaiah’s description at Isaiah 6:9, 10. Jesus said to his disciples: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted. For whoever has, more will be given him and he will be made to abound; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations, because, looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, neither do they get the sense of it; and toward them the prophecy of Isaiah is having fulfillment which says: ‘By hearing, you will hear but by no means get the sense of it; and, looking, you will look but by no means see. For the heart of this people has grown thick, and with their ears they have heard with annoyance, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.’”—Matt. 13:11-17, NW.
8. Who are the parable’s birds, and how do these act?
8 That kind of hearers are those who listen without understanding or who do not seek an understanding. They can thus be easily robbed of the life-giving information that was sown on their hearts. Only a wicked person would want to rob them of this seed of God’s Word instead of cultivating it in their hearts. That wicked one Luke’s account says is the Devil. Mark’s account says he is Satan, which name is another designation of that same wicked one. (Mark 4:15) We can be sure he is ever alert and watches wherever the seed is sown and follows it up with his assaults to commit a robbery. He sends out his “birds”, whether they are invisible demons who work at the mind or are men and women. His birds hate the pure Word of God, whether by that is meant a faithful translation of the Bible or the explanation of the “faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones”. (Jude 3, NW) Like hungry birds which are not interested in the producing of food for mankind, Satan’s agents are on the hunt for such seed sown. How many reports we receive of clergymen, nuns and priests that follow up the distribution of the printed Word by Jehovah’s witnesses and demand that its obtainers either hand over such printed material or else burn it up if they do not surrender it to such religious “birds”! They will attack and oppose such printed Word, in harmony with the wicked one’s name “Satan”. Or else they will misrepresent it and slander and malign the ones sowing such spiritual seed, in harmony with the wicked one’s name “Devil”. In this way they show they are his children.—John 8:44.
9. How have roadside hearers yielded to such birds?
9 Those who do not seek understanding will yield to opposers, slanderers and intimidators. Many such kind have thus contributed the literature they obtained toward the pile that has been collected and burned publicly to the glee of the clergymen who set the match to it. We do not have to go so far back in mind as the time when copies of William Tyndale’s printed translation of the Holy Scriptures were burned at St. Paul’s cross in London, England. Early in his dictatorship the Nazi fuehrer in true Hitlerian style had as many as 50,000 copies of the literature of Jehovah’s witnesses burned in Germany. But an understanding person or one who does want understanding and who prizes it will not be like a roadside hearer. He will hold onto the seed sown with him and will refuse to part with it on the demand of enemies.
10. How have many obtainers of literature been like roadside soil?
10 Over a half billion copies of bound books and booklets, besides Bibles, have been distributed by Jehovah’s witnesses since A.D. 1918 alone, not to mention the additional hundreds of millions of copies of magazines, free tracts, and announcements also passed out. Why, on the very day, August 6, 1950, that the public lecture “Can You Live Forever in Happiness on Earth?” was delivered at their international assembly at Yankee Stadium, New York city, a quarter of a million copies of the speech in print in a handsome 32-page booklet were distributed free right afterward to the 123,707 in attendance. But as for all the literature distributed till now, many possessors have not studied it thoroughly or at all, and many readers have not understood or not sought further understanding, and the religious clergy have not helped them understand. The religious agents of Christendom have discouraged the reading of such Bible material and have tried to capture the interest and attention of the people away from such literature.
11. Why have the birds been able to snatch so much seed away?
11 Much Bible literature as well as Bibles themselves have thus lain idle, like seed that chanced to fall on hard-packed, wayside ground. The matter has largely to do with the mind and with the condition of the heart, as to whether it yearns for truth and understanding. So that, even if the Kingdom message is presented in a verbal way by a public lecture or by a more direct personal presentation at the doorstep or elsewhere, the message received will lie dormant on the surface of the heart or mind and be as good as dead, allowing the demons and others who make attacks on the mind to snatch away what has been sown there. The Sower has been along their way, but they did not understand him or his work or his message delivered by word of mouth or by the printed page. Not hungering for truth and righteousness, they do not care to understand. So the seed is snatched away by the foes of the Word before ever it has a chance to take root. In consequence of all this, what appalling Bible illiteracy there now is!
12. Aware of all this, what can we do about the situation?
12 We, who have our eyes open to what is going on and who are aware of the enemy’s tactics, what can we do about the situation? We can put forth more efficient efforts to reduce the great Bible illiteracy. We can continue to spread the “word of the kingdom” and can beat off the wicked one’s “birds” and prevent them from snatching God’s Word from those not yet understanding it. Yes, we must even try to beat those “birds” to it. How? By making calls without delay upon those who express interest after hearing the message or who hand in their names at a public lecture, or by making return visits upon those in whose homes we place the literature. So doing, we can anticipate the action of the greedy “birds” and can help the receivers of the Word to understand it and to develop an appetite for more of it. We can make our regular visits back progressively helpful by instituting a Bible study there, using one of our Bible helps as a guide to the material studied.
13. In what way must we not be mere book peddlers?
13 We are not mere book and Bible peddlers, who spread a lot of printed matter for the sake of the financial intake and who run away from the territory where we spread the literature, afraid to go back and face again the people with whom we placed literature, but seeking, instead, a new territory in which just to place books. True, the printed page can take the place of the oral sermon. But the apostle Paul and Barnabas stayed a whole year in Antioch in order to teach the people. It was not because Paul and Barnabas did not have much, if any, printed or hand-copied literature to put out on a contribution for their support. No; but because the verbal message sown on the heart or mind can be snatched away by Satan’s birds just as easily as, if not more quickly than, a printed message. Hence the need for Paul and Barnabas to stay in the territory to forestall the coming and activity of the “birds”. Jesus, too, moved around from place to place, but he did so within his territory. He had to reach all his territory and had only three and a half years in which to do so and he made return trips over the different parts of his assignment. He also did follow-up work after his apostles.—Acts 11:25, 26; Luke 8:40; John 11:7; Luke 10:1.
14. How must we be like a farmer who wants to reap?
14 Remember: a farmer, if he wants to reap, cannot leave his fields, letting them go uncultivated after a sowing. He must work at his sown fields and keep off the destroyers of crops, and must show patience, waiting long for his crop. (Jas. 5:7) We who are privileged to sow God’s Word must do the same thing in a spiritual way. The graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead who were sent as missionaries into the province of Quebec (Canada), which is plagued with many “birds”, had to hang on fast and hard to their territory and fight off the “birds”. Now their eyes and hearts rejoice over the fruitage which they see from the seed sown. So, too, it has been in other parts of the world. Hence we must not leave it all to those with whom the Word is sown as their responsibility, but must stay close by the seed sown and try to improve the soil thus seeded and help it become fruitful and help to counteract the invasion of Satan’s “birds”.
15. How are the “roadside soil” hearers responsible, suffering the consequences of their hardness?
15 Of course, those who receive the Word by hearing it or by getting reading matter have a responsibility if they do not seek an understanding of it, keeping their minds hard and unreceptive like much-trodden soil. They suffer, too, the consequences of their indifferent hardness by suffering robbery from the “birds”. So they remain unfruitful, because never coming to a belief of the seed sown. They are no better than the open road itself. What they once had is taken from them. They become seedless soil, and stay barren, because the rain of God’s blessings has nothing to work on. They are a disappointment to the Sower. Their faithless unfruitfulness gains no salvation. If, then, we love eternal life in happiness, we do not want to be that kind of soil to the great Sower. In our own case we have to beware of the adversary’s “birds” as well as soften our own hearts and minds toward the Kingdom message. “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas. 4:7, NW) Do not let your minds be the Devil’s roadway and let him harden you.
16. To what are the quitters likened? To what does quitting lead?
16 To prove worthy of everlasting life, especially life with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom, we must show decision for the right and then stick to it with endurance down to the end. Quitters will never gain eternal life; and that fact holds true also for those persons of good will who now entertain hopes of surviving the world catastrophe of Armageddon into the “new earth”. This vital point is made by Jesus when he explains whom the soil with a rock-layer underneath pictures: “As for the one sown upon the rocky places, this is the one hearing the word and at once accepting it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself but continues for a time, and after tribulation or persecution has arisen on account of the word he is at once stumbled.” (Matt. 13:20, 21, NW) And Luke 8:13 says: “They believe for a season, but in a season of testing they fall away.” (NW) Such stumbling and falling away leads to destruction!
17. Why does not such “soil” bring forth fruit to perfection?
17 One thing is sure: If you accept the truth, you are going to be persecuted and suffer tribulation for it. You cannot escape it in this world, and especially in this “time of the end”. The apostle Paul writes: “In fact, all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12, NW) Well, then, are you going to prove like the soil with a rock-shelf beneath? Such soil does not have much depth and hence cannot hold much of the moisture which the rains deposit upon it. It does not hold moisture long, because the rock-shelf underneath is reached by the sun’s heat and warms the soil above and helps hasten its evaporation. The shallow depth of the soil also does not let the roots strike deep in search of plant food and moisture. How, then, can such soil bring forth fruit abundantly and to perfection? Jesus shows it cannot.
18. How do the “rocky soil” hearers accept the “seed”, and why does a “season of testing” come upon them?
18 It is a joy to receive God’s Word, and especially the message that his kingdom by Christ was established in the heavens A.D. 1914 and so the righteous new world is near. The people of the rocky-soil kind do “accept it with joy”. (Mark 4:16, NW) Because of its own goodness the “word of the kingdom” ought to be accepted with joy, and that joy ought to be a strength to us to go through whatever may follow. But the rocky-soil persons let their joy quickly evaporate. At first they overflow with joy and manifest a great zeal both to gain knowledge and to share it with others yet in ignorance. And then something happens! This Word sets before them the supreme issue of God’s universal sovereignty, an issue upon which both angels and men are obliged to decide each for himself. To be right they are obliged to line up on the side of Jehovah’s rightful sovereignty by his kingdom. To do this by associating with Jehovah’s witnesses and by publishing the Kingdom message exposes the rocky-soil persons to reproach, tribulation and persecution. Thus that “season of testing” comes upon them. The solar heat beats down upon them. Then what?
19. How and unlike whom do they act under such “heat”?
19 The seed of divine truth has sprouted in them, but now they feel scorched and they weakly wither away. The tribulations met with in their service of God and the persecutions they must undergo for preaching the Word dry up their fruit-bearing possibilities. They are stumbled by this fiery tribulation and persecution and take offense at it, rather than being convinced that such an experience marks the right side and proves that they are on the right side. Unlike the apostles, they do not come through the tribulation and persecution “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name”. In ancient time believers at Thessalonica, Greece, who accepted the Word through Paul, “accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit, so that [they] came to be an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” (Acts 5:41; 1 Thess. 1:6-8, NW) They were not stumbled either by the persecutions upon the apostle Paul who sowed the seed among them or by the persecution they themselves now suffered. But not so the rocky-soil receivers of the Word. They do not view things as Paul and so do not believe that “to you the privilege was given in behalf of Christ, not only to put your faith in him, but also to suffer in his behalf”. (Phil. 1:29, NW) They stop growing. They fall away.
20. What words of Jesus do they forget?
20 What is wrong with them? They forget that Jesus foretold that tribulation and persecution would come upon them for faithfully copying him and his apostles. To his apostles he said: “I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the congregation. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me. Nevertheless, I have spoken these things to you that, when the hour for them arrives, you may remember I told them to you.”—John 16:1-4, NW.
21. Why does this class stumble and take offense?
21 But the rocky-soil class do stumble, despite this forewarning. God’s Word proves to be not deeply rooted in them. Its seed-roots do not take deep hold on their hearts, so as to bring forth a public confession from a heart abounding with truth and to maintain that confession under heat of persecution and tribulation. God’s blessings have rained down upon them with a refreshment that should last, but they have not stored up enough of such refreshment to withstand the heat of a blazing enemy sun. (Luke 8:6) They prove shallow-minded, weak-hearted. They have not overwhelmingly convinced themselves of the genuine quality of the truth sown in them. They let the Word go in only so far and then let some impenetrable thing like a rock-layer prevent its roots from going down deeper and pulling good qualities of courage and faithfulness to the surface. Under the test they betray themselves as double-minded, lukewarm, not consumed with zeal for God’s house. They think the cost is too great: the persecutions and tribulations cost more than the seed of God’s Word and his rain of blessings are worth. So the “season of testing” sifts them out from the loyal.
22. How could they be happy, and thus be like whom?
22 What an opportunity they miss to brand the Devil a liar in charging that Almighty God could not put on earth a man in his image and likeness who would keep his integrity toward God under persecution and tribulation by the Devil! How happy inwardly, yes, how happy eventually, they would be if they availed themselves of this opportunity to keep integrity under persecution! They have plenty of ancient examples for doing so. “Take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah. Look! we pronounce happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and compassionate.” (Jas. 5:10, 11, NW) Let us remember that the approved apostles stuck with Jesus in his trials and for their faithfulness they were taken into the covenant for the heavenly kingdom with him. For leaving everything and following him they took the persecutions along with the heavy rain of blessings a hundredfold. They endured the great contest under sufferings. They never drew back either when faced with persecution or when in the heat of it. They knew that to shrink back meant destruction, but to have faith meant the preserving alive of the soul.—Luke 22:28, 29 and Mark 10:30 and Hebrews 10:32-39, NW.
23. What privilege do they not act on? What do they fall to gain?
23 As in that first century, tribulation and persecution can scatter the faithful disciples. It scatters them to be preachers or sowers of the Word elsewhere, over a broader field. But the rocky-soil class are scattered by persecution as runaways hunting cover. They do not have the apostle’s conviction that nothing trialsome now or yet to come will be “able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Since they do not act on their high privilege to suffer with Christ, they miss out forever on reigning with him in glory. (Rom. 8:35-39, NW; 2 Tim. 2:11, 12) For proving unfruitful, they fail to gain new world life.
24. Foreseeing tribulation coming, what should we do toward those on whom we sow seed? How does this affect the number of witnesses?
24 Seeing, then, that tribulation and persecution are certain to come upon those among whom we sow God’s Word of the Kingdom, we should forewarn and prepare them for its coming. When it does come upon them in their early days before the message has had time to take deep root and be fruitful, we should stand loyally by them under it. Help them to endure it, watering them with the rain of God’s blessings that they may withstand the “heat”. We cannot do so by forsaking them to themselves, refusing to make return visits upon them, discussing the Bible or holding a regular study of it with them, taking them to our meetings and also out in the field service with us to show them how we ourselves endure tribulation encountered in the field. The rocky-soil class who at first raise great hopes in us turn out painfully disappointing to us. But we are glad that in all our sowing of Jehovah’s Word many are demonstrating that they are not of the rocky-soil kind there in countries behind the communistic “iron curtain”, yes, too, in Greece, in the Dominican Republic, in Argentina, in Quebec, and elsewhere. Instead of withering away under the heat, their roots are drawing on the moisture of God’s truth, blessing and spirit, and they are fruitful in obedience to his supreme commands. They are defeating the wicked intent of the enemy persecution and are making Jehovah’s heart laugh at the frustrated enemies. The “faithful and discreet slave” organization devotedly sticks with them under persecution, getting food to them. (Matt. 24:45-47, NW) Hence the number of His witnesses keeps increasing.
THE DANGER OF PROVING LIKE THORNY SOIL
25. How is the course of the thorny-soil class described?
25 “As for the one sown among the thorns, this is the one hearing the word, but the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of wealth choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” That is the way Jesus gave the warning according to Matthew 13:18-22 (NW). But Mark 4:19 says the desires for the rest of the things join in making inroads upon his selfish heart. Luke names another factor, saying: “As for that which fell among the thorns, these are the ones that have heard, but, by being carried away by anxieties and wealth and pleasures of this life, they are completely choked and bring nothing to perfection.” (Luke 8:14, NW) This system of things may be at its consummation, but it is still with us. While it lasts, there are its anxious cares, its wealth-getting opportunities, and the pleasures of this life. So we all need to take heed to the warning picture Jesus gave.
26. How do they let thorny things choke their productivity?
26 People today who are like the thorn-infested soil receive the seed of the Word and could be just as fruitful as others. But they do not rid themselves of the thorns and thistles. They are too concerned about tomorrow and its needs and so do not uproot such thorny things by fully trusting Jehovah according to his promises. Then, too, they are deeply enmeshed in this present system, making themselves slaves of it, and they seek to preserve their souls according to present standards of living. What they lack is godly devotion with contentment. Hence what they do is seek to be rich in this world’s goods, thus stabbing themselves all over with many pains. Somehow they never get undeceived. So their selfishness never allows them proper time to be rich in good works or to bring forth fruit in God’s service. Their selfish anxiety does not let them give attention to this. And if they do have time, they must spend it in the “pleasures of this life”. For relief from anxiety and boredom they feel they must turn to such pleasures. What wonder, then, that God’s Word which was sown in them has its productive power completely choked!
27, 28. What action must the thorn-infested ones take? Otherwise, what will be their end?
27 Do we find ourselves infested with such thorns and thistles and correspondingly poor in the good works of God? Then we need to burn off those sticky, thorny growths so as to allow the seed of his Word in us to grow, leading to fruit bearing. Otherwise, we cannot be rich in right works which will leave a record that will survive our death. We cannot treasure up a right foundation for us to attain real life, eternal life in the new world. (1 Tim. 6:6-10, NW) Look at Jesus. How heavenly rich he was! And yet how comparatively poor he became, even to the point of being poor in earthly material goods! To do this, he sold all he had and at last he submitted to a sacrificial death. Now he has become supernally rich. Unless we copy him, his word will not dwell in us richly, making us also abound in fruit.—Col. 3:16.
28 Thorny, thistly ground is rejected by the cultivator and is near to being cursed because of not producing life-giving food in response to the rain that falls upon it. It ends up with being burned. If that is so, then the thorny-soil class have a similar end. (Heb. 6:7, 8) They waste God’s undeserved kindness to them and let worldly things combine to choke off their fruit bearing. This results in fiery destruction to them.
29. What can we do to help them and also do in our own interest?
29 We may see some who are in our congregation or some whom we have sown with the seed tending to let thorny-like obstructions invade their lives and hearts and choke their spiritual productiveness. We can warn them. When the young man let his love of deceptive wealth choke off his fruit-bearing possibilities as a Christian, Jesus warned his disciples: “It will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens.” Timothy, as a young overseer in a congregation, was instructed by the apostle Paul to warn the rich and those inclining to the love of money. (Matt. 19:23, 24; 1 Tim. 6:17-19, NW) We want to help others now to get free of entanglements and worldly preoccupations and to seek, instead, the Theocracy’s increase now when it is due. (Isa. 9:6, 7) We want to avoid letting this thorn-infested condition overrun the soil of our own hearts and minds. In harmony with such an effort within ourselves we should lovingly help others to do so. It is most timely to keep before us Jesus’ words: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and to hold your position before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36, NW.
“THE GOOD SOIL”
30. How do those like the “good soil” act toward the seed sown?
30 Who, then, are the ones like the “good soil” upon which the seed fell, so that, “after sprouting, it produced fruit” manyfold? (Luke 8:8, NW) Ah, these are the ones who have right and good hearts into which to receive the seed of the Word. On hearing the Word, they get the sense of it. If not getting it just at the time, they afterward seek an understanding of it through God’s spirit and organization. They hold onto the Word and do not hardheartedly yield it over to the robber birds of the Devil.
31. How did Jesus illustrate such ones, showing what they do?
31 Describing the “good soil” class, Jesus said: “As for the one sown upon the right kind of soil, this is the one hearing the word and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit and produces, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.” (Matt. 13:23, NW) Jesus’ words according to Luke’s account show just why such a hearer of the Word gets the sense of it and why he brings forth fruit so manyfold, saying: “As for that on the right soil, these are the ones that, after hearing the word with a right and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.” (Luke 8:15, NW) First of all, these have a right and good heart condition. Once receiving the Word, they retain it as precious, just like the good, loamy, thorn-free soil that has been plowed up and that can let the seed sown sink deep down and be covered over, because it has great, moisture-retaining depth, with no rock barrier beneath. Their heart stores up treasures of good things, because it fixes its affections upon such. When God’s ministers of the new covenant come along with the seed of his Word, they let God by his Word and spirit write his law upon the fleshly tablets of the heart, so that from then on they do God’s will from the heart, by the power of his spirit. They guard their hearts with all vigilance, for out of it flow the wellsprings of life. (2 Cor. 3:3-6, NW; Prov. 4:23) How we do enjoy going with the seed of God’s Word to persons with such hearts!
32. What is the fruit that such hearts bear?
32 What, then, is the fruit that such hearts bear? Well, seeds of the various grains produce other seeds, each variety of seed producing its own kind. The seed which the great Sower broadcasts is the Word of God’s kingdom. So, then, the fruit it produces must be witness-bearing or Kingdom testimonies to others. A Kingdom seed brings forth its own kind in Kingdom preaching.—1 Cor. 15:36-38.
33. Why must the “good soil” person produce such fruit?
33 With the heart the “good soil” person receives the seed of the Word and believes it for righteousness, but it is with the mouth that he fearlessly makes public declaration for salvation. It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth is bound to speak. Having been favored to receive the Kingdom message into right and good hearts, we must “always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name”. (Rom. 10:10; Matt. 12:34, 35; Heb. 13:15, NW) So, when we receive the seed and it takes root in us because we retain it and get the sense of God’s Word, we have thus lodged with us a commission to preach, and we must fully accomplish it in order for others to hear the Kingdom tidings. That seed of God’s Word is not dead, but is a living force. It has power to bring preaching abilities and activities to the surface, so causing a crop of Kingdom proclamation to be reaped by the great Sower. By the divine Word and spirit within us God creates the fruit of our lips. (Isa. 57:19) The “good soil” heart with the living seed implanted in it is deeply stirred and it moves the vocal cords and tongue and lips into action to “preach the word”. The fruitage thus produced is proof that the person is of the “good soil” class and that he is in very fact a minister of God’s Word. His producing Kingdom fruit wins the great Sower’s approval and makes it possible for the Sower to scatter more seed upon other hearers. Thus through his followers he continues sowing the precious seed.
ENDURANCE FOR GREATER PRODUCTIVITY
34, 35. (a) Like a farmer, what qualities must we exercise? (b) How must we help other “good soil” persons?
34 We have to exercise endurance in order to produce Kingdom fruit in praise of God, just as a farmer has to exercise patience and show good endurance when he cultivates the soil and the growing crop. As he works, he must wait upon God to make things grow. “In this way the kingdom of God is just as when a man casts the seed upon the ground and he sleeps at night and rises up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows tall, just how he does not know. Of its own self the ground bears fruit gradually, first the grass-blade, then the stalk-head, finally the full grain in the head. But as soon as the fruit permits it, he thrusts in the sickle, because the harvesttime has come.”—Mark 4:26-29, NW.
35 A person must trust in God to make him grow into a preacher of the Word, fully competent to present the message in all places and under all outward conditions. By displaying endurance he proves his trust in God. In turn, God increases the seed yield of the enduring one that this seed may be scattered about by Kingdom-preaching. “In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, . . . by long-suffering, . . . by truthful speech, by God’s power.” We do not wither and fall away under the blazing sun of persecution and tribulation. (2 Cor. 6:4-7, NW) Being ourselves strengthened by God’s power to endure, we must help others to endure. It is oh so necessary for us to assist others personally, encouraging them, praying for them, setting them the right example, taking them along with us or accompanying them in the field service of preaching the Word. God’s visible organization is endeavoring to help all receivers of the seed to be fruitful to the limit of their productiveness. And so it continues to promote the cultivation work upon those whose hearts are of the right kind of soil.
36. How is our yield determined, and why do some bring forth thirtyfold?
36 Jesus indicated there would be a difference of seed yield among those with whom God’s Word is sown, some bringing forth as high as a hundredfold. Since the quality of the soil and the amount of cultivation given to it largely determine the yield, our own amount of fruitfulness can be determined considerably for each of us by like things. However, a person who brings forth only thirtyfold is making a commendable yield. His opportunities may be limited through imprisonment, exile, isolation, underground restrictions, and confinement because of illness, infirmity or old age. But he has a right and good heart, and so he is sincere and zealous and puts forth unselfish efforts. Hence his yield of Kingdom publication whether by word of mouth or by printed page is good.
37. How do others bring forth sixtyfold?
37 Bringing forth sixtyfold denotes larger opportunities and a corresponding taking advantage of them. Those who answer the invitation into the full-time service or pioneer service enter into larger privileges and enjoy greater opportunities than the ordinary company publisher does. They have a wider sphere of action and larger possibilities. They must measure up to these. Of course, our length of time in the truth and our living to an active old age, as in the cases of the apostles Paul and John, can allow for more fruitage. But we must do more than have mere length of term in God’s service. We have to pack it full of positive effort and activity in order to be above the thirtyfold yield.
38. What does producing a hundredfold denote, and how do we make for it?
38 Yielding a hundredfold is outstanding. But it does not denote perfection of service in the case of any of us imperfect ministers. It denotes our trying to live up fully to the opportunities that present themselves or that we can clear the way for. We must be vigilantly watching against the intrusion of any thorns of worldly anxieties, money love, and pleasures. Among Jesus’ apostles, Paul, while he lived, “labored in excess of them all.” (1 Cor. 15:10, NW) Not that we are to make comparisons among ourselves, either to blow ourselves up with pride or to make excuses for our underproduction. Such a course is not wise for us. But we can note and rejoice in the increase which God gives in varying amounts in this one’s case and in that one’s, and we can study the reasons for it to our own profiting. We all have room for growth in productivity. None of us can ever equal the great Sower himself in bearing fruit to God. The Christian who sows the Word sparingly will reap sparingly. But those who zealously expend themselves will have God make them abound with the righteousness of spreading his life-giving Word. (2 Cor. 9:6-12; Ps. 112:9) Bringing forth fruit a hundredfold is a worthy goal to strive for.
39. Why especially do we rejoice over the productiveness of the “good soil” class today, and what does it mean for all such fruitful ones?
39 Lift up your eyes, sweep them east and west, north and south, and behold the faithful witnesses of the Most High God bearing fruit like “good soil” thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold, both behind the “iron curtain” of totalitarian dictatorships and outside it. How the great Sower must rejoice! What especially makes us also rejoice with him over this is that it means an ever-increasing praise to the living, true God. The great Sower said: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8, NW) Our heavenly Father rejoices to see us fruitful. He is pleased, therefore, to bestow everlasting life upon us in the new world. It is for gaining this life that we receivers of his Word must be fruitful now before Armageddon. But not only is our own new world life involved with our productivity. Through our fruit bearing Jehovah God is also pleased to confer life upon others upon whom he uses us to scatter the seed and who likewise become fruitful manyfold to God’s glory and vindication. Though the coming battle of Armageddon will wipe out and uproot every ungodly plant which our heavenly Father has not planted, it will not destroy the precious fruits of our righteousness in preaching his Word and advancing the interests of his kingdom by Christ. Oh, then, in the time yet remaining before Armageddon may He continue to cultivate us as his ministers and constantly renew our strength to endure and bring forth more fruit for his vindication and our own everlasting life in his new world! “Let him that has ears listen.”—Matt. 13:9, NW.