“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” (Luke 8:8)
With this proclamation, Jesus suggests that everyone should listen to the word of God and incorporate it into their lives, so as to fulfill the individual and those around them. But then, Jesus goes on to describe a few common responses to hearing this word. We all have our own reactions to hearing the word of God. Some of us may receive it with more joy, while others may be more likely to hear and obey it when it is convenient for them. Regardless of our own idiosyncrasies, Many of us can likely identify with each of these seeds in the parable at some point in our lives.
Jesus proclaims that individuals are like sown seeds. In the first analogy, He states that seeds along a path can be trampled upon and eaten up by birds, and relates this to individuals who have heard the word but then has it taken away by the Devil. In the second, He suggests seed in rocky ground withers after a lack of moisture, and relates this to individuals who receive the word with joy but fall away after temptation or difficulty. He continues with seed wrapped among thorns, and how the thorns swallow up and choke the seed. This is much like how the anxieties, riches, and pleasures of life can seemingly cave in around us and swallow us whole. Finally, He describes seed falling on rich soil and producing fruit a hundredfold, much like those who receive the word of God with a generous heart and bear fruit through perseverance.
I am excited to reinforce the teachings of Jesus with the field of positive psychology, because these analogies are riddled with character strengths and virtues supported by research. In the first, having the openness to discern the word of God and not have it hampered by external forces falls in line with the virtue of wisdom. This entails character strengths such as curiosity, perspective, and perhaps even love of learning. The second mostly demonstrates how bravery may serve this individual well through difficult circumstances, which is a character strength under the virtue of courage. The third exemplifies the virtue of moderation even in the midst of riches and pleasures. Modesty, self-control, and prudence can all be helpful in becoming successful while also not letting this success retract us back into ourselves, diverting us away from God and others. Finally, seed planted in good soil is what produces fruit a hundredfold given time, which ultimately takes a constantly renewed sense of zest and persistence.
And so, as you can see, today’s parable is rich with character strengths and virtues that can help us not to become seeds sown in futile environments, but rather, become seeds that are planted in good soil, bearing much fruit in the world. Still, we have likely felt like seed sown in each of these environments at some point in our lives. Hopefully this information will be of use as you all continue to bear good fruit in the world through the word of God. If you feel that any of this has helped, please feel free to share how in the comments below. I look forward to hearing what you have to say! Until then, I hope you are all staying safe and doing well!