“And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” Mark 4:13
During His three years of public ministry Jesus taught people a range of topics through parables. Jesus also makes it clear that the parable in Mark 4 and Matthew 13 was the most important one. If we don’t understand this parable then we won’t understand any of the other parables he taught. The most important parable according to Jesus is the parable of the sower.
Why would that be the most important one? Jesus is teaching us about the condition of our hearts. He is teaching us about how we receive His words. This parable is important because without understanding it we hinder ourselves from receiving the words of Jesus. If we neglect what Jesus teaches here, then we can’t understand or receive God’s word. Understanding this parable is what opens the door to the rest of Jesus’ teaching. This parable is what either opens or closes the door to our understanding.
Jesus explained that there are four different conditions of the human heart. Three out of four of the heart conditions are negative and limit the powerful results of God’s word. I believe that when we begin to understand the four heart conditions, and how to ensure our heart stays in good condition, we unlock the door to our breakthrough, blessing, and begin to step into the life God intends for us to live.
The first heart condition mentioned is the wayward heart. God’s word is sown and it falls on the path. Immediately the birds of the air, or satan, come to steal the seed. Matthew writes that the word is stolen because people don’t understand the word. I recently discovered that this was the condition of my heart for most of my life before I encountered God and was saved in 2016. I previously thought that I had a stony heart. The reality was I did not understand the word. I had heard many people preach about having a heart of stone, and how God would replace it with a heart of flesh. I assumed that was me, and to some degree it was. But I realized that the person with the rocky soil received the word with gladness, which I did not. I had gone to church but didn’t have any understanding of Jesus, prayer, or the Bible.
How do you deal with a wayward heart? For me it took consistency and a lot of great teaching from a variety of people. I had to do a lot of research and listened to a lot of sermons. The problem here is not understanding, so the solution is to gain an understanding. I needed the principals of the Bible explained in a way that I understood. This requires stepping into a place of humility. A wayward heart requires you to change your position.
Ask a lot of questions. Read books. Read the Bible. Stay teachable. So many people today don’t have a teachable heart. If you don’t have a sense of wonder about God, or don’t find yourself asking God questions, or don’t ask God for wisdom, it might be time to reposition your heart.
How do you deal with a stony heart? People with a stony heart have no root system. That may look like going to church on Sunday, and then having little to nothing to do with church or other christians until the next Sunday. This may look like going to church for an hour every week, but not serving on a volunteer team, or not spending time with anyone at your church. Would anyone notice if you’re not there? Does anyone at your church know what’s really going on in your personal life? God wants everyone to be planted in His Church. Being planted means you’re there to stay, through the good, bad, and ugly.
I believe that some of the common stones that we need to remove from our hearts include unforgiveness, offense, and a lack of vulnerability. Getting your roots down deep into the ground isn’t easy by any means. It demands persistence. It’s going to be a battle. You’ll need to push through the dirt. You’ll need to be real with other people. You’ll need to be willing to let go of some things.
The last negative heart condition we need to be aware of is the weedy heart. Jesus explains that the weeds in our heart choke His word, rendering it weak and powerless. You don’t have to do anything for weeds to grow. Weeds even manage to grow in sidewalks. Weeds growing in your heart isn’t a sign that you’re doing something right or wrong, they just grow. They don’t ask for permission. So we have the responsibility of recognizing them and pulling them out. Weeds are called the cares of the world. Weeds flourish when we have our priorities out of order.
Weeds are easy to spot when you look at where your time and money are going. Everything belongs to God, the entire universe, all the money in the world, from the beginning of time to the end. God has given you the authority over your money and your time. Where are you spending it? Would people know you’re a Christian by looking at your weekly schedule?
In Malachi God asks for us to bring the tithe, 10% of our increase, to His house, so that there is food for us there. If people aren’t tithing you’ll find church to be dry, boring, and unsatisfying, because there’s no food there. God doesn’t require us to give Him all of our time or money, rather He asks us to fully trust Him. If you’re unable to give something, whether it’s your time or money or material thing, then you don’t own it. If you’re unable to give 10% of your money to your God then you aren’t in control of your money, your money is in control of you. You don’t own your money it owns you.
That all might sound a bit harsh, but I’m going to call a weed a weed. Weeds in your heart are good for nothing. They will only steal the life and nutrients you’re meant to enjoy.
I don’t believe that we need to achieve a perfect heart condition. I know my heart isn’t in perfect condition, some days are better, some are worse. Every garden has some rocks and weeds in it. Our job is to tend to our hearts as best as we can. When Mary first encountered Jesus after He resurrected, she saw Him as a gardener. That’s one aspect of who Jesus is. He is the gardener, always ready and prepared to help us grow and improve our heart condition.