Our reading this week is from two sections of Matthew chapter 13:
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9)
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“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 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. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 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.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
The author of Mathew has mostly taken this section from the gospel of Mark (Mark 4:1-34). And for good reason. There is plenty here that it was important for the early Jesus community to remember.
The parable of the sower gives us a special glimpse into what the gospel Jesus himself preached actually was. What stands out to me is that of all the obstructions that the early Jesus community could have named to following Jesus, all the temptations that could have been mentioned, and all the sins that this parable could have railed against, the one thing named is “the deceitfulness of wealth.”
I ask why? How does wealth deceive and obstruct us from following Jesus? Why was it at the top of the list for the early Jesus community?
Wealth does not obstruct the contemporary gospel message of getting to heaven. You can “get to heaven” in many contemporary gospel narratives and still be immensely wealthy. But in Jesus’ gospel of wealth redistribution and resource-sharing from the haves to the have nots, it becomes immediately apparent how wealth obstructs. The desire to build or hold wealth is directly opposed to giving that wealth away to those negatively impacted in a system built to benefit a few at the expense of the many.
Jesus’ gospel was about creating a different way of being human together, here, now. We’ll consider some implications of that gospel message, next.
(Read Part 2)