The Parable of the (Other) Sower

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”  – Matthew 13:3-9

But another sower watched the annual cycle of sowing and reaping with a sense of disappointment and despair. He saw the patches and stretches of soil where the seed would not grow and concluded that something must be done to ensure growth could take place in every place a seed might land. After gathering a team of other innovation-minded sowers, they began to implement targeted solutions to the perceived problem.

The first issue was the birds. None of the team liked talking about the birds. In truth, the very idea of birds scared them. Someone suggested that they pray that the birds would leave the seed alone. Others thought that a scarecrow might work. In the end, the team thought it best to pretend the birds did not exist. Though they might mention the birds now and then in passing, the sowers agreed to continue their agricultural endeavors without seriously considering the reality or the damaging work of the birds (except to blame them for anything that disrupted their own selfish plans). This was made all the easier given the fact that though reports of avian activity were numerous and well-documented, none of the team had ever actually seen a bird.

The rocky ground proved to be a much harder task. After trying in vain to pick out all the rocks and remove all the buried boulders, the sowers launched a new initiative. Since the stony ground was soil-poor, rich fertilizer was brought in and spread generously across the rocky terrain. To ensure that the new plot would be productive, the team also created a special sub-team to build, erect and maintain a large tent to shade the ground from the scorching sun as well as to shovel tons of fertilizer where it might be needed most.

The team tried to remove the thorns that threatened to choke out the sprouts but found them too thick and too sharp to tackle. One briar-scarred team member had an epiphany: instead of removing the thorns, they could be used as a trellis for the young plants to grow upon. That which was once a hindrance could become a means to further growth (plus no one would be made uncomfortable with addressing the need for thorn removal).

When the seeds were sown again under this new system, there was seemingly positive growth. It was difficult to maintain the balance however, since bird damage continued, the sun grew hotter and the thorns became thicker (and the fertilizer was being spread deeper and more often). This was also the season when the team began to turn more of their collective attention away from the good soil because, after all, anything would grow there. As a result, resources allocated for the good ground were cut dramatically. Although the growth in the formerly barren areas was measurably greater, the team did not think it was enough.

It was then that the crucial question was asked: “What if the problems did not arise only from the soil, but also from the seed?”

The seed! Why did they not think of this before now?

The team set about dissecting the seed to see what parts were truly needed. After removing the pieces they deemed to be non-essential, they spliced in material from other plants, changed bits of the genetic code to aid in adaptation to multiple environments and crowd-sourced ideas as to what traits these new seeds should have.

When the redesigned seeds were sown, they grew rapidly.

They flourished among the thorns, intertwined with the briars and formed a symbiotic relationship where both types of plant lent support to each other in their race toward the sun.

The hybrid seedlings spread quickly over the shaded, well-fertilized rocks since the plants only produced shallow, wide-spreading roots. The special team was still required to constantly monitor the condition and placement of the tent lest the sun scorch the seeds.

One unexpected benefit of the new seeds was that they were bland and distasteful to the birds and thus left undisturbed.

With time, the formerly sparse ground became vast stretches of green. These were truly seeds that all soils loved.

Not long after that, the sowers were named as having one of the fastest-growing fields in the land. Though the hybridizing produced quick results, no one mentioned that the vast majority of the plants were ornamentals and did not create any lasting fruit. But the blossoms were large, and they smelled nice, so everyone defined those results as a win.

The only place that the new seeds did not grow so well (and were, in fact, sometimes rejected) was in the good soil that had existed from the start. But since that plot made up the lowest percentage of the total amount of land, it was regarded as an unfortunate, but negligible loss.

He who has ears, let him hear.                               

One thought on “The Parable of the (Other) Sower

  1. Pingback: The 33 Most-Valuable Leadership Lessons I Have Learned | Dustin C. George

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