If you ask a teacher why he or she teaches it’s possible they will say that the greatest satisfaction is seeing the potential within the students unleashed as they learn. Ask a coach why he coaches he’ll probably say it’s the joy of training and motivating the athlete to discover latent potential, to channel that talent by practice and the desire to push to boy and mind to its limits in order to succeed. The joy of parenthood is in the pride parents feel when they see their child learn a new task, discover a new idea, or succeed in the world.
In all of these areas – teacher, coach, parent, the common denominator is that they believe in the power of potential, and the joy of seeing that potential unfold.
Entrepreneurs share this passion except it’s in the field of business instead of human development. Artists too. And all of these share this insight and joy with God.
God is the great champion of hidden potential in everyone of us which is evident in today’s Gospel story.
Notice the pattern of the sower in the parable. The farmer scatters the seed over the entire field. The ploughing comes only after the seed is scattered. In fact, it’s only after the ploughing and working of the soil that he discovers which soil is rocky, or shallow. It’s only after the plants begin to grow that he discovers which soil is infested with thorns, or which area is vulnerable to the appetite of the birds. At the time of sowing, the farmer knows nothing for sure. And in the face of potential for huge losses, he might be tempted to give up. But he presses on anyway.
So why the optimism?
When the odds are only 25% to succeed, how can he be so hopeful?
It’s because he’s learned to trust in the incredible abundance of the seed that does fall on the good ground. The farmer knows that much of the labour will be unfruitful, but also believes in the power of the seeds to be very fruitful when they hit the right spot. And Jesus said the results would be outstanding. So the farmer’s hopeful because he knows the maths.
And, of course, Jesus goes on to say that the Kingdom of God is like that.
Perhaps He is suggesting that although many times the work of God seems lost or unproductive on the world stage, or even in our individual hearts, God isn’t anxious. God believes that ultimately His word is not fruitless no matter what the current circumstances seem to indicate.
I imagine it’s like instructing children to grow in character or faith, or even how to drive. While you’re teaching, the child seems like hard soil, or distracted soil with many other competing interests. You might get discouraged, unless you remember patience of the maths.
Those insights you fear are bouncing off the hard soil will one day take root and produce a harvest of wisdom and knowledge. You may not see it soon. You may not see it at all.
God believes in the power of His word. Truth and love ultimately win. Integrity ultimately prevails. Peace ultimately comes.
Notice, finally, how lavish the farmer is with the seed. He scatters them far and wide with an energetic swing of the hand. This extravagance is almost wasteful. But the focus is not on efficiency but on abundance. And that’s how God has provided for us – with an abundant hand. He wants us to live with the confident hope and trust of a people who believe in a sense of abundance. Just as the sower had more than enough seed for the harvest, so God has provided more than enough grace and gifts for our lives.
When we understand this we don’t waste time and diminish ourselves by grasping, hoarding or competing for limited resources. We live free, happy and joined in companionship with each other. When we think our assets or blessings are scarce, we start to get anxious, we see others as a threat to our resources, and we become distrustful of life.
The choice is abundance or scarcity.
The pessimistic maths of the soil or the extravagant maths of the seed?