In the Bible: Matthew 13:1-23
As Jesus went out to sit on the shore of a lake, large crowds gathered around him to hear him speak. There were so many people, that Jesus decided to get into a boat and drift just off shore, so that everybody could hear him.
A farmer went out to sow his seed in his fields. As he cast his seed, some fell onto the path and were eaten by the birds. Other seeds fell onto some rocky places with not much soil. Those seeds sprang up quickly but when the sun came up, they wilted and died because there was not much soil.
Other seed fell amongst thorns. The thorns grew up and choked the good plants.
Still other seed was cast upon good soil, producing a crop a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown!
Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Why do you speak to the people with parables?”
Jesus replied that the crowd was not given the power, as the disciples had been given, to understand the mysteries of heaven. He also told them that whoever listens and puts his words to good use will receive more of that wisdom, but whoever does not put the words to good use – even what was given would be taken away.
Jesus told the disciples that in telling the crowd parables, he was fulfilling prophecy. Even though they all had ears, they couldn’t hear. They all had eyes, but couldn’t see. He was trying to reach them at a level they could understand, so that they could see, and hear, and understand – and then Jesus could heal them of their sins.
He continued with the parable:
When anyone hears the word of God, and does not care to understand it, the devil comes to snatch away what was told to them. This is the seed which was sown on the path that the birds devoured.
The one who hears the word and rejoices greatly for a while is like the seed that falls on the rocky places with little soil. The seed withered and died in the hot sun, like the person who falls away from God in trials and tribulations of life, instead of trusting Him.
The seed that was thrown into the thorns that choked out the good plants, is like one who hears the word, but chooses to forget it because of the cares and riches of this world.
The person who hears the word, and pursues to understand it, and then spreads it to others is like the seed that was thrown on good soil producing a crop of thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold!