By Brannon S. Howse
The Scripture: But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundredfold.
The Twist: Similar to Luke 6:38, this verse is also wrongly applied by false teachers to money.
False teachers like Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, and others like to say, “You need to sow your faith seed. And if you sow your faith seed, some of you will get back thirtyfold, sixtyfold, hundredfold. ” Of course these false teachers almost always want you to sow your financial faith seed into their bank accounts. However, the seed referenced in this passage is the seed of the Gospel, not financial faith seed.
Oral Roberts is now deceased, but when he was still with us, he taught this “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel or Word-of-Faith heresy. In fact, I have a video on which Benny Hinn interviews Oral Roberts, and they discuss this passage of Scripture—completely out of context. Here’s a transcript of a portion of that program:
[quote] Benny Hinn: I do want to ask you, before we go, the ground must be the right ground.
Oral Roberts: Well –
Benny Hinn: The soil must be the right soil.
Oral Roberts: Jesus taught – told us that we must sow in good soil. He says, you’re not to throw your seed on the ground that’s unplowed, ’cause it won’t grow. You’re not to throw it among weeds, because the weeds will choke it. You’re not to throw it among rocks, because it has no soil. But he says seeds sown in good soil –
Benny Hinn: Will produce.
Oral Roberts: – reproduces 30 times, 60 times, and 100 times. But it must be good soil, which the Bible approves.
Benny Hinn: What do you mean by “the Bible approves”? You mean people preaching the Word, not people that are just –
Oral Roberts: Well –
Benny Hinn: – playing church?
Oral Roberts: Some people think you can just give just anything, anywhere, anyhow. But I think that the Bible teaches that we are to know where we give our seed. We’re to know it’s – it has good soil, that it’s reproductive soil. [end quote]
Obviously Hinn and Roberts are talking about giving money. They are intermingling the idea of broadcasting seed on good ground in Mark 4 with the topic of giving.
Even with respect to the Gospel, though, Roberts had it wrong. He said, “You don’t throw your seed on the stony ground or in the weeds,” but the reality is, we broadcast biblical truth, and we don’t have control over the type of ground the seed falls on. My television program, for instance, airs on a variety of television stations, and my daily radio program runs on about fifty stations every day. It also goes out over the Internet and apps (see worldviewweekend.com/app). So people are listening literally all over the world. Our computer specialist did a study not too long ago and found that we had delivered content in one month to people in 120 countries.
My point in saying this is that we do broadcast the seed of the Gospel like a farmer broadcasts seed, and we don’t know exactly who hears it. That means we don’t know what kind of ground it falls on. The ground or the soil Jesus speaks of is the heart, and we don’t know whether or not any particular individual is stony ground. Our job at Worldview Weekend is to be faithful to broadcast the seed. The Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit opens people’s hearts and draws them. The Scripture is clear about that. As Jesus said in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Similarly, 2 Timothy 2:25 declares that we are to be “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” In the end, the One who really sows the seed in a person’s heart is the Holy Spirit. All we can do is to be the faithful broadcaster.
Isn’t it interesting, too, that what I do on radio and television is referred to as broadcasting, and it’s truly broadcasting—as the Scriptures say—when we broadcast biblical truth. Regardless of what Hinn and Roberts say, we can’t control the ground the Gospel seed falls on. Some hear it and reject it while others hear and embrace it. Some are false converts that seem to produce fruit for a while, but then the weeds choke out the fruit. All we can do is be faithful to proclaim the Gospel.
Let’s look more closely at the context in which Jesus is talking about sowing the seed of the Gospel so we can see clearly that He is not talking about financial seed. Begin at Mark 4:14 which says, “The sower sows the word”—the Word of God. We proclaim the Word, the Gospel, the Good News, and the sower sows the Word. So the context is not finances or money or giving money but sowing the Gospel. This is reinforced by Matthew 13:19, which says:
"When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside."
When the word “kingdom” is used in the Scriptures, it often refers to the way of salvation, the way to heaven, the way to the kingdom, or the Gospel of the kingdom, and the one who snatches away what was sown is Satan. Again, scripture interprets scripture, so we know that the soil is the heart.
The reason I use so much Scripture in our television and radio programs and in any of the books I write is that the Word of God convicts, as described in Titus 1:9: “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” It is the Word of God working in concert with the Holy Spirit that convicts those who contradict.
The Bible is clear that God prepares the heart, and it is our job simply to broadcast the truth of His Word. God may choose in His sovereignty to use the seed to draw people to Himself as John 6:65 teaches: “And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’” God is responsible to move on the hearts of people, to draw them unto Himself. People often want to argue the issue of election or predestination and freewill, and I don’t like to debate that because I don’t think, quite frankly, it’s something we can understand with our earthly minds. Indeed, we see both predestination and man’s responsibility in the Scriptures.
I like John MacArthur’s observation that this is seemingly a paradox, but it’s not a true paradox. In our limited understanding, it seems contradictory that man has a responsibility, and yet predestination is at work. Both are true.
MacArthur also offers a helpful analogy regarding the authorship of Scripture. He asks a series of questions. Who wrote the book of Romans? Paul wrote the book of Romans. Right? But yet, the Holy Spirit wrote the book of Romans as the Holy Spirit moved upon Paul, right? So, who wrote the book of Romans? Paul? Yes. Who wrote the book of Romans? God, as God the Holy Spirit moved on Paul? Yes. You see, the answer to both questions is yes. Paul wrote the book of Romans, but God wrote the book of Romans, as God the Holy Spirit moved on Paul.
MacArthur also asks this question: Who lives your Christian life? It’s not I who live, but Christ who lives in me, as we see in Galatians 2:20. But then Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Galatians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 9:27 offer up apparent paradoxes, but, again, both aspects are true.
Jesus Himself is the ultimate paradox. Here, again, MacArthur provides a helpful series of questions. Was Jesus 100 percent man? Yes. Was He 100 percent God? Yes. Well, you can’t be 200 percent of something. Right? No, but He was 100 percent God, and yet He was 100 percent man.
All of these examples show the kinds of tensions we see in Scripture over and over. We don’t understand them fully and simply have to accept them by faith. It’s one more reason why it is so important that you and I are faithful simply to broadcast that seed of the Gospel, knowing that God is the One who ultimately sows it in the soil of people’s hearts.
Jesus Christ sows the seed, as Matthew 13:37 tells us, “He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.’” So when faith healers and false teachers use Mark 4 or the parallel passage in Matthew 13 to defraud people into sowing “financial seed,” we see their error by noting it’s actually Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, who is doing the sowing. The good seed that falls in the hearts of those who become believers produces various amounts of spiritual fruit.
Let me give you a wonderful example of how bearing of fruit works out. Darryl Palmer has been a guest on my radio program, and his story is remarkable. He and another family went into a tribe in the Asian Pacific in the early 1980s. They lived with that tribe for four years in an extremely remote, primitive, no-running-water jungle area. The two missionary families studied the tribal culture and spent four years learning the language before they could preach the Gospel to them. Now, some thirty years later, Darryl has translated 70 percent of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament into their language.
The tribe’s one-time witchdoctor, heavily into the occult, has become a believer. As part of his repentance, he made a stone altar in the river and burned all of the paraphernalia he used in his shamanism and witchcraft. Little groups of people had been spread all over the region, and yet they came together to hear the Gospel. As a result, they eventually created a village of 1,000 people and a church of 400.
Out of that tribe have come pastors and elders who have studied the Word of God translated into their language by the faithful ministry and arduous work of Darryl Palmer. The tribe even sends missionaries to other islands, so showing Darryl Palmer to be a perfect example of the Christian who produces fruit. We should all be seeking to produce as much good spiritual fruit as we can by investing our lives in kingdom work—not in building the kingdom of God on earth but building it in the spiritual realm as we preach the Gospel.
That brings us back to where we started with respect to Mark 4:20. You, as a believer, bear fruit. You persevere in the faith, reject false teaching, and proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way. You defend the exclusivity of Christ, and you bear fruit. Some bear thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.
Notice, though, that while thirty-fold is the lowest of all the three multiples mentioned by Jesus, it is a huge return. Famers never see a thirtyfold return on any crop they ever harvest. This suggests that just as here are three types of soil that represent the unbeliever in Mark 4, there are also three types of soil for the believer—soil that produces thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.
It’s quite a sickening twist to suggest that Mark 4:20 is talking about money. The verse is not about sowing faith seed and getting back 30 percent or 60 percent or 100 percent on your monetary investment. The real fruit this passage talks about grows the Kingdom of God.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.