parable

The Sower

“….Behold, the sower went forth to sow . And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty,” (Matthew 13:3-8).

This is a fascinating, multidimensional parable. Most of the time we interpret it by focusing only on the soil. Each one of us who has studied the parable has shuddered at the likelihood of being identified with wayside soil, rocky soil or thorny ground. Because we desire to be the good soil, we find ourselves almost always compelled to conduct a deep self-introspection, and an evaluation of our own spiritual standing. We make an effort to identify strongholds in our lives that defy spiritual regeneration; areas that need to be surrendered to God so that we can walk in victory and worthy of our calling, which is a commendable undertaking indeed. We do not want to be the type of soil that is not productive nor do we want to belong to churches that are inefficient or those that misuse or waste the resources dedicated to the Lord. This mindset has engrossed the church so much that it has become a guide in planning evangelistic efforts. When planning evangelistic meetings, budgets are carefully planned to avoid “wayside, stony, and thorny ground” wastage. The focus is usually on potentially “good soil” as the target population group for our efforts so that we can end up with a 30-fold, 60-fold or 100-fold harvest. The more, the better—it is a game of statistics!!! We send individuals ahead to till the ground to ensure that it is receptive to the seed because we must be smarter than that “reckless” sower of antiquity. Sometimes special marketing strategies are designed and implemented to maximize the harvest from the church’s financial investment. No wonder we end up with homogeneous churches-cocoons that shut-out “publicans.”

But what if we attempted to look at this parable from another dimension? What if we focused on the nature of the sower Himself? This seemingly wasteful sower seems to have no concept of the cost of His seed in the light of global economic down-turns. He insists on being appallingly extravagant! As a matter of fact, extravagance is His nature. He tends to always give exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think. Look at how lavishly He has arrayed the universe with billions of galaxies and astonishingly glorious nebulae. One only has to look into the telescope to behold astounding formations of constellations hanging against the vast darkness of space. Then there is that gem of our universe, the blue planet swarming with an unparalleled ecosystem. This is also home to creatures bearing His image, to whom He gave His Son. Talk about epic giving!
This is the Sower who goes out to sow His seed in myriad of soil types. Not skipping over the dry, unpromising soil, He casts His seed on the wayside and bicycle lanes, and asphalt pavement with a constant flow of incessant traffic. Pedestrians jostle for space, dodging each other in the hectic traffic, oblivious of the seed they are crushing underfoot. The traffic is so dense that the “senseless” efforts of the Sower become an irritating distraction and, consequently, a target of disparagement and crass jokes. But the Sower keeps on sowing His seed unmindful of the profanities directed at Him. Some seed falls on hungry winos sprawled in the gutters of the back alleys of the city center. Curiously, they pick up the seed, examine it, toss it in the mouth and down it with the dregs of their stale beer. Some of the seed falls on the soil littered with rotting trash on the edges of the gutters. It quickly germinates and blossoms into stunningly beautiful flowers. Enthusiastically, the Sower continues to sow His seed. Some of it falls in church parking lots and the deacons quickly sweep it away in an attempt to keep the grounds immaculate for parishioners. On and on the sower goes…to those steeped into superstition and witchcraft. Some of them pick the seed up. Supposing it to be a magical remedy for their ailments, they eat it up. The Sower proceeds to institutions of higher learning, scattering His seed in lecture halls amid scorn and hysterical ridicule. Tirelessly, he marches casting His seed in fields in the community valley where the seed sprouts and brings forth a rich harvest. He keeps on sowing joyfully and lavishly until the end of the planting season.

The Ramifications of “Killing God”

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, a son of a Lutheran minister. His father died when he was five years old. Probably the loss of a father at such a tender age is what led him to detest religion with an unbridled fervor.
Among his literary works is the controversial parable known as the Parable of Zarathustra. In this parable, Nietzsche wrote about a momentous, cosmic catastrophe, the “death of God.”1 A mad man (probably symbolic of Nietzsche himself) announces the “death of God” to a jeering crowd of skeptics gathered in a market place for no apparent reason. The mad man proclaims hysterically, “God is dead…we have killed him.” Of course, that is impossible in the literal sense, for God is self-existent and uncaused. He is the only One whose reason for his existence lies within himself. What Nietzsche was doing here was heralding nihilism, which rejects religion and moral principles. By rejecting them, Nietzsche understood that he was rejecting their Source.
But the ramifications of having “killed God” are not lost on Nietzsche: “How can we the murderers of all murderers comfort ourselves? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now?” The magnitude of his pronouncement had the potential to unhinge the very order of life on earth, rendering everything meaningless. With the “death of God” comes the erosion of all values and morals, and the introduction of anarchy and lawlessness and unprecedented violence. Using metaphors and similes, Nietzsche admitted that nihilism could be calamitous as mankind would attempt to become his own god: “Do we not ourselves have to become gods…?” The repercussions of assuming such a morally autonomous position would result in a ghastly a debacle. Although the parable is presented in a pendulous and ambivalent manner by being both liberating and disastrous, the bottom line is that this kind of worldview would inevitably usher in an era in which the relevance of the Moral Law would be questioned if not rejected. Everything would become permissible, to echo Dostoevsky. A few decades after Nietzsche came individuals such as Sigmund Freud and others who claimed that religion was nothing more than a basic infantile intellectual level, probably classified as being at the bottom rung of the evolutionary ladder.
At the heels of the birth of such a worldview, came the 20th century; so far regarded as the bloodiest and most violent century.2 Slowly, as mankind distanced himself from the dictates of the moral values, life began to lose its sacredness. This trend continues as we hear of people getting shot or maimed or stabbed or bludgeoned to death for the most trivial reasons. Mankind is, indeed, straying through “infinite nothing.” As belief in the moral values began to wane, a wave of darkness began to encroach upon humanity, true to Nietzsche’s prophetic pronouncements: “Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning?”
Nietzsche himself spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum and in the care of his family. He was silent most of the time. In his book, The Last Journey of Jack Lewis: A Conversation of C.S. Lewis with Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud, Chang-Wuk Kang claims that “When he was in an insane asylum toward the end of his life [Nietzsche] recited Bible verses from time to time.” He was only 46 years old when he died in 1900.

Sources

1 Fordham University (n.d.). Modern History Sourcebook: Nietzsche: Parable of the Madman. Accessed from http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/nietzsche-madman.asp

2 Francis P. Sempa (2012). The Bloodiest Century. Accessed from http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2007/0103/book/book_sempa.html