18"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matt 13:18-23, NIV)
Even so I have recently heard it misused a number of times recently. Simply this is a parable challenging the listening crowds as to their reaction to the gospel (message of the kingdom). It articulates three reasons why people do not ultimately respond to that message as they should:
- shallow roots
- worry/ materialism
According to this parable the kingdom of God begins in our lives with understanding. Understanding comes at the beginning and the end of the parable. The 'yield', that is the good deeds and the transformation and the worship, are the result of understanding, rootedness, and carelessness, but priority is given to understanding.
Rootedness comes when we are committed to the Christian community. People seldom decide one day that they are not Christians any more, but they do easily drift away and slowly forget when they are not deeply connected to other Christians. But we can only make that commitment in as much as we understand the need for it and how to do it.
Carelessness, is an essential Christian virtue, because we only have one life, and can only serve one master, God's kingdom requires all of us, not part while the other part keeps an eye on the world's ideas of fulfillment. Again this is only possible through a right understanding of who God is and what he asks of us and promises to us.
So whatever expression of the kingdom of God you participate in, whether a traditional church, or a mega church, or a trendy urban missional community, or anything in between, your priority should be understanding. because although there are so many important and vital elements in the Christian life, they all begin with understanding.