The parable of the sower challenges gospel proclaimers to fulfill their responsibility regardless of the response. Jesus describes three unproductive responses and one productive response that yields differing quantities. Unproductive hearers will always be unregenerate and sometimes include the regenerate. Those producing fruit will always be regenerate.
Unproductive hearers fall into three categories in this parable: Careless, unstable, and distracted. Careless hearers respond to what they hear with, “Whatever.” Unstable hearers respond first with, “Oh, yeah!” and then with, “Oh, NO!” Distracted hearers respond with, “I’ll add it to the list.”
Careless hearers fail to understand the word of the kingdom. This person parallels the lazy man or sluggard found in Proverbs. Mental incapacity is not the issue here – rather, it is a matter of the will. The careless person views exposure to the Word as interesting perhaps, but not applicable. Their “whatever” approach prohibits exerting any effort to integrate truth into daily living. Ultimately, this reveals a hardened heart. Mark 6:52 reveals that the disciples failed to understand what the feeding of the 5,000 signified. The text reads, “they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” They failed to put together that a Person who multiplies bread will watch over them in the storm. Careless hearers fail to assemble truth with life.
Often such hearers assume that what they need will be readily available. However, Jesus states that a careless response to the Word activates the devil. The Word does not sit on hard ground. The devil violently takes it away. Ephesians 6:10-18 and 1 Peter 5:8-9 teach that believers face a mortal enemy and real spiritual warfare. That warfare takes place on the battlefield of the mind. “Standing” and “resisting” both involve faith – and Romans 10:17 declares that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Successful spiritual warfare depends entirely on being equipped with God’s Word (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Hard-hearted, careless, “whatever” hearers of the Word yield the advantage to the devil by allowing him to remove their only defense.
Careless hearers fill churches today. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that going to a building and hearing a sermon does not automatically bring spiritual productivity. The Word must be understood and applied to daily life. This means (going backward through the applications in Ephesians) employers must be fair, employees diligent, fathers godly in the rearing of their children, husbands loving, wives submitted, believers Spirit-filled, resisting and exposing the works of darkness (including vulgar communication), forgiving as God forgives in Christ, speaking only what edifies, not stealing, not sinfully angry, speaking the truth, distinct from the world, maturing in a local church, and unified in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Otherwise, the devil comes and snatches the Word away.