And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up (Matthew 13:3-4).
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side (Matthew 13:19).
We have an advantage when considering this parable because Jesus provides an explanation. As we go through this parable, we will look at one section of the parable at a time and the corresponding explanation that Jesus gave.
Here, we are considering the seed that fell by the wayside.
The word of the kingdom is compared to seed. In this section of the parable, the seed fails to produce anything because it is immediately eaten up by birds. Jesus compares this to a person who hears the word of the kingdom but fails to understand it. As a result, the “wicked one” takes away that which was received.
Here are some questions that we might wonder as we read this:
- What is a wayside?
- How can a person lose something that they did not understand in the first place?
- Who is the “wicked one?”
A wayside is a well-worn path. As a result, the ground is hard, and the seed cannot penetrate. This makes sense when we look at the soil as a metaphor for the heart or mind.
We could compare this well-worn path to a hard heart that is not open to receiving the things of God. Some people are emotionally hard of heart. Meaning, they have a visceral distain for God and the things of God on a personal level.
We could compare this to a mind that is hardened by the well-accepted knowledge of man—a sort of knowledge that is contrary to the kingdom of God. For example, some might be hardened against the idea of God or the kingdom of God because they do not see any evidence or because their understanding of science seems to contradict the bible and mainstream Christian teachings.
What Jesus says next is interesting and kind of confusing. He says that this is a representation of someone who hears the word of the kingdom but does not understand. Yet, there still seems to be something sown in his heart that the wicked one can take away.
First, who is the wicked one?
The wicked one is an enemy of the faith. This includes Satan himself, but not exclusively. This can include anyone who steals the good word of the kingdom of God from others.
How can the wicked one steal something that is not there? If there is no understanding, then what is left in the heart that can be stolen?
Maybe I’m getting too caught up on this point, but there is an example that comes to mind that might help.
Let’s say that a person is raised with a fundamentalist’s approach to Christianity. Meaning, they believe in a mostly literal interpretation of the scripture, and along with this they also believe a certain set of Christian teachings that are traditional to the denomination in which they were raised. This is the well-worn path. However, this well-worn path lacks real understanding, so any truth of the gospel that was received is easily stollen by unbelievers.
We see this a lot today.
There are many people who were raised in the Christian faith, or a type of it, but they do not have a real understanding of who Jesus is, what He stands for, what it means to live a Christian life, and how to form a real-to-life relationship with Jesus. Their understanding is superficial at best, so it is easily challenged and eaten up by their peers in school, college, Online, and so forth.
What is the solution?
Factual knowledge about Christianity is not the same thing as real understanding. Real understanding involves getting to know Jesus personally. This is the solution.
As we get to know Him personally, He can reveal much understanding of the things of the kingdom—understanding that is spiritually discerned. We cannot substitute tradition for relationship, and very often our traditions do not actually understand what the things of God and His kingdom are about—and most importantly—what Jesus is all about and what He expects from His followers.
When we have real understanding that is in spirit and truth, nothing can steal that understanding away from us because what we have is not just a set of facts that can be disputed and done away with by those whose wisdom is of this world and not of God. What we have is knowledge of the Lord Himself and once He invests Himself in someone, no one can take it because He is everlasting.
My faith has been challenged by the knowledge of this world and its atheists. What should I do?
If you relate to this question, then the best thing that you can do is pray earnestly and humbly to Jesus. Be honest about exactly where you are, even if you feel ashamed, confused, or afraid that Jesus is not even real or there at all to hear you. Ask Him to show you what is true, and maybe He will have mercy on you and answer.
If you do not notice an answer, keep asking. Get away from all that you think you know or that you were taught by whatever denomination you were raised in and ask Jesus to teach you Himself or lead you to a teacher that was ordained by Him and not man.
Ask Him to open your heart to His word afresh, as a child who knows nothing but is eager for instruction. Then read your bible or listen to an audio bible. Keep praying, knowing that Jesus responds to those who persistently look for Him—not just intellectually—but in sincerity of heart.
My Experience with Seed That Fell by the Wayside
I was raised to believe in the facts of the Christian faith. I believed that Jesus was the Son of God who lived among man, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is now alive in heaven. I believed that since I pledged my allegiance to Jesus by reciting the “Sinner’s Prayer,” I was saved. This meant that I would go to heaven when I died instead of hell. I was also taught a set of Christian doctrines and interpretations of the teachings of Jesus.
However, I later found myself on the verge of unbelief. This was in part due to problems that I had with some of the teachings that I had been taught—which I later rejected once I learned better. This was also in part due to the influence of New Age thinking along with various ideas of unbelief that are prevalent Online.
I began to think that Jesus was just one way to God, and I even began to wonder if He existed at all. I was also severely depressed due to other life circumstances. I prayed to Jesus, asking Him to show me the truth. This was in 2014, and this is when Jesus showed me mercy and gave me a heart that would take the faith seriously. He graciously and patiently led me through various things that grew my understanding—not just of true Christian doctrine—but understanding of Jesus personally.
That’s the basics of how it went for me. If you would like to know more, or if you would like to share your own troubles with unbelief, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Being on the verge of unbelief as enemies of the faith steal the word of God from you is a desperate place to be. I would very much like to pray for you if you find yourself there.
This article is part of a series that considers the parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the lessons that we might learn from The Parable of the Sower. <–Visit this for quick access to all articles written about this parable. If you would like to continue with this conversation, you can subscribe by email. Scroll down to the very bottom of your screen, and you will find a subscribe button. You can also follow in WordPress. This is not copyrighted material. Use and share freely.