From Matthew 13:1-9
Mrs. Smith was one helluva teacher sent from Heaven. I know because I had her for English. I know because I watched her put up with Ed. Ed didn’t want to be in school, Ed didn’t want to learn the puns of Shakespeare or the alliteration of Blake, and Ed didn’t want to be told what to do.
Through it all, Mrs. Smith never gave up. She’d offer extra time on tests he had no intention of completing. She’d push him to enter rap lyrics into a poetry contest, but Ed didn’t do extra work. She’d encourage him to redo the homework he turned in before she graded it, but all this was casting pearls before swine. Ed didn’t care. His apathy, a black hole, sucked the energy and impetus around him. Ed didn’t care. But Mrs. Smith cared, and she never gave up on him.
Today’s world has joined what some psychologists call the ‘cult of self.’ At the expense of self-awareness and self-limitations, we boost self-esteem eclipsing reality in exaggerated egocentric effigies of us. We know the education system is failing, yet more students get A’s and Honors than ever before. If a C is the average, how come so few kids get them? Ivy League Students were surveyed and 80% of them claimed to be in the top 5% of their class. And everyone gets a trophy.
But it’s not just kids… Social Media enables us to tell the world about us and to live in a world that revolves around us. We Instagram what we’re eating, tweet the songs we’re singing, and post “Best Vacation Ever” every time we slip away. Narcissism rises as we can literally count how many likes, shares, comments, friends, and followers we have. We create monsters who no longer can be told they are incorrect and will not admit that they made a mistake all in the name of the god called self-esteem.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us a parable about farming. We show up clutching to our report cards, trophies, awards and affirmations; Jesus ruins it. God loves us, but some of us just aren’t going to get it. The parable of the sower casting out his seeds is pretty familiar to all of us. We know about the different types of soils: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and of course the good soil. And each time we hear this parable, we tell ourselves the same things: “I’m so glad I’m the good soil,” or “I used to be like that soil, but now I’m the good soil,” or “here’s a list of things I have to do to make sure I’m the good soil.” We are so focused on ME! ME! ME! we’ve retitled this parable. No longer is it the parable of the sower but the parable of the soil.
Jesus tells us about God. Jesus lets us know God doesn’t give up on us. Jesus is tells us about God’s wasteful generosity. A farmer goes out to plant. How many farmers do you know cast seed out on Highway 58? How many farmers do you know throw seed on rocks or among thorns on purpose? How many farmers do you know who are tighter than spandex on an 800 lbs gorilla? Farmers I know count their fingers after they shake your hand.
God is not your average farmer. Our Lord is so generous every soil gets seed. God loves the road. God loves us when we are hard and mean as asphalt. God loves the rocky soil. God loves us when we are shallow, undisciplined, and unwilling to let his love affect us deeply. God loves the soil with thorns and thistles. God loves us when we let money, worry, friends, and family come before what really matters. God loves the good soil. God loves us when we are ready to receive his Word, take it into our lives, and bear fruit.
This is not a story about us. This is a story about God’s wasteful generosity. God is willing to love even when there is little chance the love will be returned. Our part in the story is to love like God loves.
Jesus sat down by the sea and told us a story about God: the most generous, loving, wasteful farmer the world has ever known. Let’s be honest, some folks are just not going to get it, but that doesn’t stop God from loving them. It shouldn’t stop us from loving as well. God gives so much grace in the world that some of the grace is going to waste. Some folks just aren’t going to follow Jesus. Yet, God doesn’t give up on them… and neither should we. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.