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Preparing the Ground

It's not just what you do, it's where you do it

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to consider which opportunities are the ones that we should take.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and four readers.

  • Three versions of the parable of the sower can be found in the Bible: Matthew 13.1-23, Mark 4.1-20 and Luke 8.4-15.


Leader: Jesus was a brilliant storyteller. He could gather a crowd and have them hanging on his every word, thoroughly entertained, as he told stories that left his audience pondering, trying to work out the true meaning of what he’d said. Jesus stories always contained more than just a narrative. We use the word ‘parables to describe these stories with a message.

One of Jesus best-known parables concerns a farmer who went out to sow his seeds, like many will this month in early spring.

Reader 1: The first scattering of the farmers seed fell on the pathway rather than on good soil. This meant that some was spoiled as people walked along the path and trampled on the seed. The rest was gratefully eaten up by wild birds. Result? Failure.

Reader 2: The second scattering of seed fell on ground where the soil was shallow and full of stones. At first, this seemed good because the soil warmed quickly, the seeds germinated and the plants sprang up. However, in the summer sun, these seedlings withered because they hadnt developed a proper root system to tap into the moisture that lay deeper. Result? Failure.

Reader 3: The third scattering of seed fell on ground where there were other wild seeds, those of weeds and thorns. The crop seeds couldnt compete with their stronger rivals. They grew up spindly and useless. Result? Failure.

Reader 4: However, thankfully, a fourth scattering of seed fell on deep, rich, fertile, weed-free soil. These seeds prospered and eventually provided an abundant crop. Result? A very happy farmer.

Leader: So, whats that all about then? How is this parable about a farmer sowing his seeds relevant to our lives in this (city/town/village - please insert as appropriate)?

Each one of us here wants to make something of our lives. In 50 years time, we want to be able to look back with a measure of satisfaction as to what we have achieved, just as the farmer hopes to look at his bumper crop at harvest. In fact, some of us are well on our way to that period of our lives. As students, we are very much in the ‘sowing seeds period. What we decide now will begin to determine the kind of life we can look back on when we get older. So, how does Jesus parable address what we think, say and do?

Time for reflection

There is a lot of advice available about self-fulfilment, making the most of the people we are. We can analyse our strengths and weaknesses, the contribution that we make to the team, our personality type and the targets that we can set. This gives us good advice about who we are and what we might do. Its as if we are particular varieties of seeds.

However, Jesus gets us to think about where we might do what we do. The parable is not about the sower or the seed, its about the kind of ground where the seed is planted.

Some opportunities in life seem to offer an easy option. It looks as if we can get a lot without much effort. Theyre very tempting, but are they meant for growing? Will we develop as individuals by always choosing the easy option or will we be taken advantage of, trampled or stolen? A quick fix or an easy profit rarely turns out to be what we expected, just like seed that falls on the pathway.

There are other options that we can see will provide quick results. Well be fast-tracked, promoted and earn good money straightaway. What about the longer term, though? Can we make a career of our choice? When the market slumps, will we be needed? Have we gained the necessary experience during our swift rise, or are we like seed that falls on shallow ground?

What about the competition? Its encouraging to move up a set, to test ourselves against those who are better than us. However, sometimes, its better to be realistic. Where are we comfortable, but challenged? Where do we know well have some success and be able to learn from our failures rather than becoming discouraged? We dont want to be like seed that is choked by weeds.

Lets look for the options that offer us the chance to grow and develop. They may come in our subject choices or project groups that we choose to join. They may come through voluntary work, networking with those who are older and more experienced. They may come about by our involvement in creative arts or sports teams. It may be about choosing an apprenticeship rather than college. It may be about whether to go to university.

Each one of us is like a seed. We have the potential to grow and provide a harvest of resources for others and satisfaction for ourselves. Fulfilling that potential may well be affected by the soil in which we choose to grow.

One final note: theres no single conclusion to be drawn from a parable told by Jesus. Maybe youve picked up some additional ideas to those outlined here. Ponder them for a while and let the story develop for you.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for a story that stimulates our thoughts and our minds.
Remind us of the seed and the fertile ground as we come to make our choices.
Help us not always to take the easy option in life, but to realize that hard work and commitment make a difference to the sort of people we become.

Publication date: March 2019   (Vol.21 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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