Suggested Reading: Mark 4:1-20
Personally, the most annoying commercials are those commercials that are constantly trying to get us to call and become part of their work-at-home program. They always have some lady with an attractive voice telling us how well she and her husband have done working at home, how they were able to quit their normal jobs, and how much they love being at home full-time. But while the commercials try to convince us that we can work as little or as much as we want and can get out of it whatever we choose to put into it, there is inevitably a disclaimer at the end that lets us know that results like those in the woman's testimony are not typical and we probably won't get rich with their program after all.
Unlike those work-at-home commercials, though, Jesus does offer us a system in which the more we put in, the more we can get out. In Mark chapter 4, Jesus begins telling parables and he explains to his disciples that he uses parables so that "they may look and look yet not perceive; they may listen and listen, yet not understand; otherwise, they might turn back--and be forgiven" (Mark 4:12, HCSB). Then he explains to his disciples the parable of the Seed and the Soil.
Jesus explains that the word of God gets sown into all kinds of hearts. Some hearts are cold and unreceptive like pavement which never gives seed a place to grow. Some hearts are less cold and they readily receive the word of God, but they are shallow and unwilling to make it a priority when trouble hits and the word of God shrivels up and dies in their hearts. Some hearts allow the word of God to take root and begin growing, but then they get so distracted by the worries of life and their desires for things that the Word of God gets choked out and never really blossoms in their lives. And then some hearts receive God's word, let it grow and change them and produces fruit in their lives. And since Jesus rarely just gives agricultural lectures, the implication of the parable is that we choose what kind of heart we are going to have, what kind of soil we want to be.
When you combine the parable of the Seed and the Soil with Jesus's explanation of why he uses parables (that they might look and look yet not perceive…), it becomes clear that Jesus is telling us that he isn't simply going to hand an understanding of God to us on a silver platter. He gives us parables so that, if we really want to know and we are willing to think about them and invest ourselves in them, and put some effort into understanding because we choose to be hearts whose soil is ready for the Word of God, then we will understand them and get something meaningful from them. But if we are only interested in being entertained, if we are simply taken with the novelty of Jesus, if we don't really have a vested interest in understanding what God has for us, then we won't get anything out of Jesus' words.
What about you? Are you willing to invest yourself in pondering the Word of God? Are you willing to put some effort into praying through, thinking about, and meditating on what Jesus had to say and how it affects your life? Or are you more interested in being entertained and hearing a story that makes you feel good? Do you listen to the Word of God as it is taught, and preached, and read with an ear that wants to understand? Or have you decided that you'll simply take whatever is handed out to you in simple formulas that don't really require much thought?
When it comes to God's Word, we often get out of it exactly what we are willing to put into it.