As he was scattering his seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on and the birds of the air ate it up (Luke 8:5).
Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts (Luke 8:12)
We can’t get grass to grow in our back yard. There’s a bit of green here and there, but for the most part the backyard is hardscrabble and bald. During the summer when I try to mow what little grass we have back there, the mower spins a dust storm worthy of The Grapes of Wrath.
About four years ago I tried using an aerator. I rolled this massive spiked cylinder around the yard, peppering the ground with holes. Then I put down some seed. Later I noted a few sprigs of grass making a valiant effort to establish their presence - a valiant effort, but one short lived.
Last summer we tried putting down sod, the horticultural equivalent of a wig. Again, a noble effort, but the bald spot remains in the back yard. Laying down a grass carpet and throwing seed on top of the ground doesn’t mean that grass will take root in the earth. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
Human hearts are much the same way when it comes to the word of God. Sometimes the word is read or heard, but it sits there on top of the ground, never taking root, never getting down deep. Birds come and eat it, or as Jesus explained, the devil snatches it away.
The enemy of our faith can foil the work of the seed in any number of ways. Sometimes the word perishes because we’re ignorant of it. Lack of knowledge means seed is wasted. Sometimes the word fails to go deep because we won’t let it get any further than the surface. We’re not open to hearing what it might say to us.
Hostility and ignorance are fairly obvious explanations for our failure to hear the word and thus discern the voice of Jesus speaking to us. But there’s another one that may be more common. In fact, my guess is that if you’re even bothering to read this daily reflection, ignorance and hostility are not the main reasons the word perishes on the surface of your life.
A more common problem is familiarity. We’ve heard it before, over an over. We’ve read it until we can almost say it by heart. We’ve heard plenty of sermons or lessons. We know what it means, so we stop listening. We no longer have ears to hear.
The hard soil and the hard heart do not belong solely to those who have rejected faith in Jesus. The hard soil can be found in those who believe, but have heard so often and so much that they’ve stopped listening.
This might be a day to test the soil of your own heart for the resistance that comes from familiarity with the word. Ask God to give you ears that hear the word in a fresh way. This may be something we need to pray every day. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. When it comes to God’s word, familiarity breeds . . . actually it breeds nothing.
Help me to hear your word afresh, O Lord. Take what is old and familiar, and place it deep within my heart. Forgive my casual neglect of your word and plow again the hard places in my heart and mind, I pray. Amen.