All of us want our marriages to thrive. But a thriving marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes preparation. And the best place to find what that preparation requires is in God’s Word.
“He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed…‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’” – Mark 4:3,9
The Parable of the Sower
Over the next few weeks, this new Couple’s Bible Study series will look at what is most often called “The Parable of the Sower.” Just as we saw with our last series, Protecting Your Marriage with the Armor of God, this parable is not directly speaking about marriage, but indirectly it has much to say to us as husbands and wives about how to prepare our marriages to receive all the blessings God has for us. You can read this parable in the three synoptic Gospels—Matthew 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8.
A parable is a story, usually from everyday life, that leads its listeners to understand a truth. Jesus often taught through parables to emphasize and illustrate a point, and He tells us why in this passage:
“The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” – Matthew 13:10-13
Jesus says not everyone will understand what He is trying to teach through His parables. Only those who have the Holy Spirit through trusting Christ as their Savior and those to whom the Holy Spirit is speaking at God’s command will understand. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit living in them or who are closed to God and His Spirit will not understand.
So let’s look at this “Parable of the Sower” as found in Mark 4:1-9:
“Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.
He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: ‘Listen! 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, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’
Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’”
The Sower, the Seed, and the Soil
While this parable has traditionally been called the “Parable of the Sower,” others have entitled it the “Parable of the Soils.” This is because Jesus puts the greatest emphasis on the soil.
The sower, however, is vitally important, for he spreads the seed. In this story, the sower is God and the seed is His truth. For through His Word, God teaches His truth to us.
The soil represents the heart of a person receiving God’s truth. Not the heart that pumps blood to our bodies. But the heart as the Bible defines it—our inner soul from which flows everything we think, feel, and desire.
Man’s heart is mentioned in these three passages, all spoken by Jesus:
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” – Matthew 12:33-35
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” – Luke 6:43-45
“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” – Mark 7:20-23
From these teachings, we can clearly see that what is in our hearts will directly impact how we live our lives, including how we relate to our spouses. Jesus wants to put the seeds of His truth into our hearts, so we will live in ways pleasing to Him and, therefore, have marriages that thrive. In order to do this we must prepare our hearts to receive His Word.
Preparing Our Hearts
God—through the Bible–gives us instruction on how to live this life pleasing to Him. We can see, in the following verses, the importance of preparing our hearts to receive the truth of God’s Word:
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119:11
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.” — Deuteronomy 4:9
“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:20-23
Can you see why Jesus focuses on the soil in this parable? Our hearts need to be ready to receive the Word of God and allow it to take root and grow. We can do this when we seek the Lord through prayer and Bible study, desiring to learn His ways and apply His truth in our lives. And it is important to do this individually and as a married couple.
One tool that can help you spend time together each week in prayer and Bible study is Couple Connect. To design your own weekly devotion and communication time, download our free ebook here: Couple Connect – A Simple Weekly Plan to Stay Close for a Lifetime.
Going through the discussion questions below together is another good way to seek a greater understanding of living according to God’s truth. (And it can certainly be a part of your Couple Connect time.)
Could the soil of your heart use some work? Let’s each work to prepare our hearts well so God’s seed–His Word–will have the greatest impact possible on our lives and marriages.
Questions for Discussion
- Read the “Parable of the Sower” to prepare yourselves for the rest of this series, and discuss it together before we look at it in more detail beginning next week. Talk about what you believe God is teaching you, especially how you can apply it in your marriage.
- What are you doing to prepare your hearts to receive God’s Word? Discuss what you can do to better prepare to receive His teaching and put it into practice.
- What are you doing together and individually to put God’s Word into your heart? How can you encourage and help each other to do this?
- Pray together (remember husbands, take the lead in this), and ask God to help you to prepare the soil of your heart to receive the seed of His Word so you will bear the fruit of (put into practice) what He teaches you.
Next week, we will continue this study by looking at the first of the soil types—the soil along the path. As we study what the four soil types represent, we will discover how each impacts our marriages and what we can learn from them, so we can have the most fruitful marriage possible.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the PREPARING YOUR MARRIAGE TO THRIVE series:
Part 2–Softening the Hard Places
Part 3–Breaking Through the Rocky Places
Part 4–Removing the Thorns
Part 5–Cultivating the Good Things
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Header photo by Paul Jarvis via Unsplash (CC0), cropped/text added.