Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jesus gets it backwards.

Had I been Jesus' script writer I would have worded the sentence a little differently:

"....where the plants produced thirty, sixty or even a hundred times as much as was scattered!"

Start with the lower number and then increase as you raise your voice, get the listeners really excited about the possibility of a hundredfold return. That's the way to really sell this story Jesus.

But that is not what Jesus does in the Parable of Sower

But a few seeds did fall on good ground where the plants produced a hundred or sixty or thirty times as much as was scattered. - Matthew 13:8

I've lost count of the number of times I've read that parable, but this is the first time I've noticed the word order. I was reading the passage aloud for worship and was putting some emphasis and emotion into the reading to keep people engaged. It was the process of that interpretation that I suddenly noticed the word order in that sentence.

How do I read it aloud? Do I read it getting louder and more excited to make it seem that a thirty fold return is even better than a hundredfold? Or do I allow my voice to trail down after the one hundredfold so that the sixty and thirty fold return sound like a Disclaimer?

Interestingly enough Mark's version of the Parable has the yields listed in ascending order, and Luke's version only lists a hundredfold return. Both of these sit more comfortably with me than Matthew's telling. 

I wonder if my confusion over how to read Matthew aloud displays my Reward Mentality. What do I get out of being planted in good soil? How do I maximize the return on my investment? How do I grow spiritually as quickly and deeply as possible? Mark and Luke are much more inviting in this regard, especially Luke. I'd like the hundredfold only option please.

What if this Reward Mentality that seems so ingrained has me focusing on the wrong thing? Instead of putting my efforts into somehow obtaining a hundredfold return I should instead be focusing on being good soil and leave the volume of growth to the Sower.

This Parable of the Sower (also often called the Parable of the Soils) is one of the few parables that Jesus explains. In Matthew's retelling of the explanation he writes this:

But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. - Matthew 13:23

There it is again, that descending order of numbers that started my problem, and there too is the phrase 'hear the word and understand it'.

Many of us do not hear. We do not listen to our own bodies. We do not hear the cries of the poor and needy. We do not hear people who hold views different to us. We hear only what we want to hear.

Hearing is exhausting. 

Understanding is worse. The more you seek to understand the more you realize that even the simplest concept is complex beneath the surface.

Why bother? 

When I hear and when I seek to understand, a relationship is formed between the Listener/Knower and the person/object/concept/issue. I can no longer view them as separate from myself. There is only one field, one seed. Their growth may look different to mine and their harvest may be lesser or greater, but hearing and understanding leads to acceptance and embrace.

Who do you need to hear and understand today?

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