Holding the word in an honest and good heart

But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. (Luke 8:15)

Mark’s version: But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

Matthew’s version: As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Luke’s version: And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.

In all these, seeds being planted is a picture of hearing the word (which, in Mark is just the word, but Matthew calls it the word of the kingdom and Luke the word of God). The reaction to to the word varies slightly: the hearer in Mark accepts it, the hearer in Matthew understands it, the hearer in Luke’s version hears it and then holds it fast in an honest and good heart, and the yield comes with patient endurance. The result varies: the good bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold, Matthew is very similar, but in reverse: a hundredfold … sixty … thirty. Luke’s good soil merely brings forth fruit.

We all want to be good soil for God’s word, at least on our good days. Luke’s version helps us understand a bit better of what this means. Our hearts must be honest, that is, willing to take God’s word to us as it comes and however it ends up describing ourselves, our God or the world. It might be a word of encouragement or correction; having an honest heart towards it means taking it as it comes. The better our heart is, the better our reception of the word: to me, it gives a picture of a feedback system, a “virtuous cycle,” in which the better our hearts become, the more we can receive the word from God, and one result will be our hearts will become even better, and the cycle continues. We also need to bear fruit in patient endurance. Bearing fruit will take time. We need to be patient with this, recognizing that it will take time. And we need to continue to receive the word over the long haul of time.

It may be that the fruit is meant to mean additional people coming to follow Jesus, but I suspect the fruit this parable speaks of is more in the manner of Galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

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