Multiplying Our Insight
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The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 contains important insight that many of us may overlook due to the translation of a key word.
The parable refers to those who “do not hear or understand” (v. 13, NIV, emphasis added). It quotes Isaiah about people who “will be ever hearing but never understanding” (v. 14, emphasis added). Again, “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts …” (v. 15, emphasis added). In his explanation of the parable, Jesus said, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (v. 19, emphasis added). “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (v. 23, emphasis added).
If the Greek word translated “understand” in these verses simply related to comprehending or grasping something’s meaning, then Jesus’ parable would be about those who were blessed with a specific mental ability. It’d even declare severe results for everyone not blessed with that ability, which would be unjust. But the parable is about fruitfulness, not intelligence or lack of it.
The word translated “understand” gives us the key to that fruitfulness or productivity. It describes bringing things together, such as combining facts to gain insight; correlating new facts with older knowledge; digesting or reflecting on new information. This is something we can all do, even if we can’t easily comprehend things.
In the parable, the seed along the path represents anyone who chooses not to correlate, digest, reflect on or process what he hears about God’s kingdom. In contrast, the seed sown on good soil represents anyone who intentionally processes what he heard, correlates it with what he already believes to be true, digests it and ponders it.
God never wants us to be passive in life. Instead, he wants us actively engaged in what he’s doing. He gives us options and urges us to choose the good. He invites us to meditate on scripture; to see evidence of him in creation; to ask, seek and knock; to present our requests to him with prayers, petitions and gratitude.
Some truths in scripture are obvious and need little effort to grasp. Others, however, require us to digest what scripture says, then ponder or meditate on it. Those who do so will gain new insight that is many times greater than the initial truth they worked to understand — 100, 60 or 30 times as much. The Holy Spirit will use that initial seed to guide them into many other truths and insights about God’s kingdom.