In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes four kinds of ground which a seed might experience:
- The way side (the road)
- Stony places, with very little soil
- Thorny places
- Good ground
(See Matthew 13:3-8.)
The first three are not conducive to growth. Only the fourth enables the seed to flourish.
Alma uses a similar metaphor in his sermon to the Zoramites. Comparing the word of God to a seed, he urges them to plant it in their hearts, to “give place” for it, and to not to “cast it out by [their] unbelief” (Alma 32:28). When the seed begins to sprout, he tells them, they should nourish it in hopes of one day enjoying its fruit. Then, he gives this warning:
But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.Alma 32:38-39 (note the similarities of this passage with Matthew 13:6)
As I’ve pondered these passages today, I’ve had the following thoughts about how I can be “good ground” as I study the New Testament this year:
- Expect surprises. Scripture study isn’t supposed to simply reinforce what we already know. It’s supposed to jar us sometimes, to make us think differently. It’s supposed to give us new lenses through which to view our experiences. It’s supposed to teach us how we can change and become better.
- Be patient. New skills and disciplines take time to develop and can be awkward at first. New insights may need time to incubate before they are fully developed. We must not reject new ideas too quickly, before we’ve given them a chance to prove themselves.
- Be diligent. Learning is an active process. Good ground not only accepts seeds but also nourishes them. We need to dedicate time and energy consistently to the acquisition of spiritual knowledge.
- Trust the Gardener. God’s ways are higher than our ways. We need to believe that He knows what He’s doing and that He will direct us in ways I never could have directed ourselves.
Today I will be good ground. I will strive for open-mindedness, patience, diligence, and trust as I study the word of God.