Viewing Each Other the Way God Views Us

I speak to you in the name of one God, Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

We live in a world that most often views things as “good” or “bad.” We place sweeping judgement statements without even knowing we are doing it. Statements like, I was so “good” today because I worked out, OR I was so “bad” because I ate McDonald’s. We hear these statements in the news or on social media, and without pause, we most often view them as facts; “bad” apples in the police are to blame OR it is a “good” time to fly because of decreased numbers of travelers.

So, it is no wonder that when we hear today’s well-known parable of the sower, found in Matthew, Mark and Luke, at first glance, Jesus’ message is clear. That some soil is good, and the other soils are bad. Seed that is placed on the path, or on rocky ground, or soil filled with weeds—don’t even bother…they are bad. The soil that grows plants which bear fruit and yield hundredfold; that is good soil. Good is good, bad and bad—the message is clear: be good soil.

Even though this way of thinking is most often how we as a society operate, it isn’t actually the way things are, and it certainly isn’t the way God views the world.

This parable is the first of seven told by Jesus one right after another. They come right smack dab in the middle of Matthew’s Gospel, leading some to think that these hold the heart of Jesus’ teaching to the people. If Jesus isn’t saying “be good, not bad”, then what is he saying? Jesus sees the way the world operates; he sees the systemic issues of injustice; he sees the ways in which the poor and oppressed are treated; but he also sees a path towards goodness, and he knows that things can change. It begins with viewing our world very differently—the way God views us.

In this parable, we hear of different types soil, and we know which soil is fertile. This is no secret to the sower who is planting the seed, so why doesn’t the sower just scatter seed on the good soil? Why even bother scattering seed on the path, or the rocky ground, or the soil with weeds? To most of us, this seems irresponsible and wasteful, but since the sower is most often interpreted as God, it is obvious that God views things differently.

God chooses to scatter seed everywhere, indiscriminately on all kinds of soil. God does not see “good” or “bad” …all God sees is opportunity. God has hope that no matter where the seed falls, it can grow into something life-giving. It begs to ask the question: What if seeds can grow anywhere? What would it look like to view all soil as potentially good soil?

Many of you know I that I grew up on a Christmas tree farm in West Virginia. My front yard was eight acres full of trees, and every November and December families would make the trek out to the farm to pick out their perfect Christmas tree. The soil that brought life to these trees were now being cut down to bring new life in the homes of those growing in spirit during the holiday season. But what you don’t know is that this was never the original plan. As newlyweds, my parents were looking to buy their forever home, and their only criteria was they knew they wanted to be out in the country and my father knew he wanted to be a farmer—he had this deep yearning to create new life and provide sustenance for others from the fruits of his labor. He originally thought that meant having large fields for growing produce to provide to the local community, but obviously things turned out quite differently. My parents eventually found a beautiful piece of land on which to build their dream home, but there was one big problem. The land that they bought, the land that my dad was planning on gardening, was full of “bad” soil. I don’t know all the particularities, but the soil was full of rocks and clay and it was made very clear to my father that because of this “bad” soil, he would not be able to produce the farm he had envisioned.  Now, it would have been natural for my dad to think “well that’s it…I had it all wrong the whole time. God doesn’t want me to be a farmer. If that was the case, why would God have brought me to this “bad” soil?” Instead, my father viewed the situation differently. “God has planted this seed inside me; this call for me to be a farmer and bring new life. I wonder what, if anything can grow?” So, my father did his research, and as it turns out, coniferous trees (the types of trees used for Christmas trees) cannot only grow in harsh conditions, but often times can thrive in the particular soil make up that my dad’s land had. And the rest is history. He focused on the tree farm for a number of years, but the yearning to grow produce never left him. He eventually took a number of classes and became a master gardener, where he learned the exact conditions and materials and nutrients needed to create “good” soil. He then built raised-bed gardens the produced beautiful food, but that food only came once a year. So, he then decided to build two large structures called “high tunnels” (kind of like greenhouses) so he could use the “good” soil he created to grow crops all year round. Those crops led to the first official farmer’s market being started in the local community and provided fresh food for local schools to serve during lunches.

What started out as seed on potentially “bad” soil, has now multiplied the yield hundredfold and transformed a community, and even after my father’s death, is still continuing today. This didn’t happen overnight, and it took lots of hard work and determination, but it all began with thinking differently and trusting that God was at work.

Who are the people in our lives that we deem “bad” soil? Where are the places in our city that we deem unworthy of scattering seed? Why, as believers in a God who generously and abundantly constantly shows love to everyone and everywhere, why do we hold back and only invest in what we know to be “good” soil? 

Jesus, in speaking to those who would hear, was in the business of making this whole creation new—turning the world upside down—but that doesn’t mean the way God works will ever change. At this time in our history where it seems like everything has changed, and nothing is normal, we need God’s unchanging perspective of hope and love more than ever.

Things are certainly not the way we expected them to turn out. The world is struggling and suffering from a relentless virus, crippling poverty, systemic racism, wondering how best to care for our children, and simply missing being able to hug the ones we love. From society’s perspective, it is easy to view all this as “bad” soil, and to merely give up. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that self-preservation and security are the only ways to live in the midst of despair—to think we must hold on to the “good” soil that we know exists, and not be bothered with anything or anyone else. But as believers in a God who can redeem any situation, as believers who feel called to bring new life and provide for others, this is our time to view things differently.

This parable teaches us some amazing truths:

Good things can come out of things we didn’t expect.

God does not hold back and save seed only for the “good” soil, so why would we?

God liberally flings the seeds of hope everywhere and this should be a reminder to us that sharing God’s word and showing God’s love is never wasteful.

This Sunday, I dare you to think about what this world would look like, how it could be changed and transformed for the better, if we viewed each other the way God views us—to look at one another, see each other as God’s creation worthy of love and nurturing, and assume that no matter what kind of soil we think they are, that they have the potential of being soil that bears a life-giving yield.