Jesus, while on earth, spoke (figuratively) about four types of soil conditions in which the seed might fall. As I understand it, back in those days, those planting seeds would carry them in a fold of their garment and “cast” (spread by flinging, sprinkling generously) the seeds. Naturally, such a method would easily cause the seed to fall in all of the four areas (the “roads” hardened by travel from people, animals and carts, the “rocky places” perhaps around the boundaries of the tilled soil, the “thorns” (also likely at the boundaries) and finally the “fine soil.”) Most likely the farmer tried to get as much of the valuable seeds on the fine soil but accepted that for the expediency of getting the work done, some seed would fall on those other three places.
The explanation Jesus gave for the above referenced illustration (“parable” for those acquainted with that term) is found at Matthew 13:18-23. There we find out that the seed is the publically proclaimed word of God. The various soils are receptiveness of people’s hearts. The thing is, people are not unchangeable soil. However, the way they respond both to the message and circumstances in their life is the point Jesus was making. People’s viewpoints and responses can change. So Jesus was not at all indicating predestination. A case in point is the apostle Paul. He started out as “Saul,” a fanatic Jewish Pharisee who was bent on persecuting early Christians. However, he changed.
I have seen this even in “our day and age.”
I was having numerous conversations with a young man in his early twenties who was raised by a family that held to the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This man was not a rebel. He was kind-hearted and soft-spoken. He was respectful and mild. But after months of talking with him I sensed his level of appreciation for the Bible and commitment to God just wasn’t there. Finally, I took him aside privately and told him the following: “In my experience, there are three types of people. First are the ones that just do not believe in God. Second are the ones that may believe in God, but aren’t convinced that a particular religion (or any religion) is necessarily right. Finally, there are those that may believe in God, and may also see the benefits of the brotherhood espoused by the Bible, but just don’t feel that religion is something they want in their life.” I asked which one fit his situation. He said it was the last. I assured him that I respect his God-given right to free will. I told him that he needed to make some life discoveries for himself, to have some life experiences that would help him discover what he himself felt was true and worthwhile. I told him I’d welcome his call or text messages any time of day. It has been months now since we’ve talked but I am hopeful that in the years to come, he will see things clearer.
On the flipside of that is another young man, same age, also raised around the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses but as a teen, rebelled and turned away. Like the prodigal son, he got involved in all the things that can entice a person in this world. But now he is a young man living on his own and has had years to observe what this world is really about. Instead of speaking fondly of his experiences, it is evident that he feels really beat up by them. All the things he thought would be truly pleasurable and rewarding have turned out to be a burden and a bother to his inner sense of right and wrong (his conscience). He decided to re-learn what the Bible teaches but this time as a young man able to determine for himself what is true and not true. He does not need to feel apprehensive about asking questions for fear of disappointing his relatives. He is encouraged to ask questions and express what he really feels. His expressions of appreciation not only for the Bible but for the patient, non-judgmental care being extended to him are heartwarming.
I think experiences such as these convince me that all the fault-finders of Jehovah’s Witnesses, our teachings and our ways, are shown to be either sadly misguided individuals or outright liars. For example, while doing some web research for my recent article on Philippians chapter 2, I came across a website that blasted Jehovah’s Witnesses as deceptive liars. Having been a former Catholic and associated with many religions before becoming convinced that only Jehovah’s Witnesses accurately teach the truth, I was able to quickly deduce some facts about that website. First, accusations poured out freely but without any concrete proof or reasoning. Second, the reasonings that were provided sounded like a madman’s rants. Finally, search as I might, there was absolutely no way to contact the writer. Now, really, which would you be more inclined believe—someone that readily provides contact information, as I do, as my religion does (www.jw.org), or one that spews vile hatred but hides their identity? Regarding this last point, the one thing I have noticed about the official articles written by the Watchtower about other religions always makes every attempt to do so in a respectful manner. They never resort to insults and are always willing to discuss their beliefs. However, when I see articles written by other religions against us (mostly on the internet), they never seem to find an ounce of good in anything we do. According to them, we are thoroughly corrupt, completely deceptive, without one ounce of redeeming value. My recommendation to you would be to check it for yourself. Can it really be true that people from all backgrounds, all financial levels, multiple educational levels (including scientists and surgeons) could be so easily deceived?
In response to the false claims that we are “brain washed” and forced to be brainless automatons, I can guarantee from my own 41-year-long experience that is completely untrue. Unlike other religions that require financial contributions, we do not. We feel contributions should be a personal matter motivated by heartfelt appreciation. We have no tithing. So, we encourage people to reason, we encourage questions, we promote tolerance and patience, we have no ulterior motive such to soak people for their money or try to control their lives. Anyone that says differently is not telling you the truth about us.