“The Word of God,” the letter to the Hebrews writes, “is living and active” (Heb 4:12). In ways more than one, this passage tells of the eternal character that marks the truths found in the Scriptures; for while the written texts of the Scriptures have long been established – read: definitively canonized – thousands of years ago, the teachings and wisdom which are contained therein are never confined into either the timeframes or specific contexts of the written literatures themselves.
Instead, the truths of the Bible speak to all believers in the past or in the present (as even in the future).
As indeed, it is normative even, for Christians scattered all over the world, to glean faith and life lessons from the timeless teachings of the Bible. On account of these reasons therefore, it is surely not bereft of good reasons to claim that the Bible, all things considered, is a universal source of inspiration for all peoples of all times and places.
Rationale and Scope In view of the foregoing, the roadmap and central thesis of this term paper is aimed at appropriating a particular truth of the Bible into the present context. This is done on the underlying assumption that the stories in the Bible offer timeless lessons and truths, if only they are appropriately discerned within any particular context or situation. Specifically, paper attempts to make a successful re-appropriation of the Parable of the Sower; and the modern context into which it shall be retold would be in “workplaces” – i. . , into the context of people’s professional life and, in many ways, in the manner by which they conduct business enterprises.
The choice to re-appropriate the Parable of the Sower into the context of people’s affairs relative to their business enterprises or professional jobs is an option taken not without discerned reasons to say the least. Christians, ever since, have always been called to bear witness to the faith they profess by living exemplary lives right within their very contexts.
And since, nowadays, many people spend most of their times in their respective workplaces, the need to bear witness to the truths of the Gospel within these types of environments surely becomes even more urgent. Schminke, citing the idea of Delbecq, in fact argues that “at the beginning of the century,” the “non-business settings” acted as the locus where peoples’ “moral character was forged”; today meanwhile, “the employing organization takes up much of people’s preoccupation and time,” and, as a consequence, it “informs and shapes both (the) behavior and character” of modern peoples (ix).
There are surely enough good reasons to say that, in view of Schminke’s observation, the Parable of the Sower – as a particular truth propounded by the Gospel – can speak volumes to the manner by which people of this contemporary setting respond to the invitation to seek the ways of God right into their otherwise non-religious contexts. Retelling the Parable in a Contemporary Context Before proceeding with the re-interpretation of the parable, it may be good to note that the Parable of the Sower appears in all Synoptic Gospels –namely, in the Matthew 1: 1-23, Mark 4: 3-20 and Luke 8: 4-15.
At the very least however, it would appear that the story attempted to drive home a singular lesson: that God has made salvation openly available for all people; but the quality of a person’s response is what determines if one has helped oneself make that salvation work for his or her own life. The parable, essentially, is about the manner by which human persons respond to God’s call to salvation (Suarez 2). And key to attaining one’s salvation lies in “listening intently” to the ubiquitous invitation of God to live out the message of the Gospel in every moment of one’s life (Maxwell 103).
If the Parable of the Sower is about the quality of a person’s response to God’s invitation to encounter Him at every moment of one’s life, how then should the story be properly re-appropriated into the context of one’s professional or “work-related” life? First, one can note the significance of the Sower’s sowing of seeds to this end, as this is the first aspect brought into the fore by the parable. The Gospel recounts: “A Sower went out to sow” (Mat 13: 3). This first statement itself, can be interpreted in a lot of ways.
But what proves to be chiefly important for this study is to note that the act of “sowing of seeds” can mean that first, that Jesus announced the message of salvation without discrimination and prejudice, and that, second, while He was aware that people can take the message in a myriad of different ways, Jesus went on to proceed with sowing the seeds of salvation nevertheless. In many ways, one must always remember that these two aspects are especially applicable in one’s professional lives.
Much too often, people think that, because business environments or professional workplaces are chiefly concerned with ensuring company’s development and growth, and applying key economic concepts thereof, or maintaining a healthy level of profitability for the company, the nature of these jobs have nothing to do with religiosity or the practice of one’s faith. And at the other side of the coin, people think that spirituality, or even the basic sensitivity to God’s presence, has to be confined within the august walls of the church.
But this paradigm is problematic, if not all together false. If the Sower had sown seeds on to all types of grounds – whether nurturing or adverse to the seeds – then people should realize that the nurturing one’s faith is not confined to the time one spends in the church, but embraces all aspects of one’s life, including those times spent in one’s profession and work. Which is why, the call to live out that faith demands that one must find ways to recognize the presence of God within in these environments.
For at the very least, even when one is immersed in an environment which, on the surface, has nothing to do with one’s exercise of faith, the challenge to be always conscious of the religious precepts demanding ethical conduct at all times and in all places, by choosing to adhere to the “framework of general principles of right or wrong,” and learning what one ought to do, and what one’s duties are,” ultimately has to be dealt with no matter what (Guy 22).
Secondly, the significance of the four types of grounds on to which the seeds fell merits considerable attention in this regard. As indeed, it is certainly wise to ask how these characterizations best exemplify the context of people who find themselves at the heart of domineering culture of business enterprises. Jesus continues on with the parable: “As he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them” (Mat 13: 4).
And, purporting its corresponding interpretation, Jesus furthers: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown along the path” (Mat 13: 19). Pavements, because they is too often “packed so tightly”, as well as finished in a manner evened and leveled, makes a good place for “easy pickings for the birds” (The Bible Church). If taken into the modern context, Jesus here may be argued to be referring to people who, far from being ignorant, do not just give much thought about their belief system or faith.
Herein it makes sense to call these people as atheists – people who, while not directly denying the existence of God, nevertheless “do not make any assertion whatsoever about him” or about the need to believe in Him (Gaudium et Spes 919). These are the types of people who manifest wholesale disinterestedness in asking questions about God or His precepts, since they find it meaningless. And in many ways, there are a lot of people of this nature in the world of business enterprise.
Among others, these people are the ones who do not feel chiefly accountable to a higher authority in conducting business. Surely, it is not surprising to hear of unethical practices being committed within workplaces. In fact, it is a commonly held assumption that the “practice of business enterprise” smacks of a “dark side: narcissism, greed, political ruthlessness and injustice perpetrated on employees” (Schminke x).
If these phenomena say something about the point in contention, it merely speaks of the manner by which “the modern world itself, though not of its very nature but because it is too engrossed in the concerns of this world, can often make it harder to approach God” (Gaudium et Spes 919). The Gospel proceeds: “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away” (Mat 13: 5-6).
In view of this description, Jesus explains further: “As for what is sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the world, immediately he falls away” (Mat 13: 20-21). By right of observation, one can attest to the fact that rocky grounds are indeed replete with small weeds. But since there is “no place for a hardy root system to develop”, no plant ever grows from among the rocks (The Bible Church).
The cited passage can be reinterpreted as a description referring to people who readily assume that faith is but a matter of intellectual exercise and conceptual frameworks. In modern society, there are a lot of people who, without knowing it, belong to this categorization. Suarez maintains that it is “risky” for believers to treat the truths of the Gospel as “mere object of ingenious intellectual dissertations (as well as) of brilliant and polemical but superficial essays” (2).
For all its promises however, this type of attitude towards faith lacks breadth and depth, and ultimately, does not change one’s behavior for the better. In the field of business, many people are exactly such type of believers. These happen when, despite being idealistic about doing things rightly in the first place, certain individuals start to trade off moral precepts demanded by religion – such as honesty, justice, transparency and truth – for certain self-serving interests such as good name, promotions and sizeable profits, in the long run.
Lack of conviction breeds a kind of faith lacking with the courage of bear witness. And like someone who hears the Word of God but, apparently, does not listen, a person who cannot bear witness to the truths of the Gospels in his or her workplace surely is reluctant to practice what he or she so delightfully hears on account of the difficulties that arise with the obedience is demanded corollary to it (Suarez 4).
By and by Jesus continues the parable: “And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and chocked them” (Mat 13:7); and, explaining it further, He argues, “He who received seed among thorns is he who heard the word; but the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he became unfruitful” (Mat 13:22). Immediately, one may rightly surmise that this categorization reflects, in many ways, the general atmosphere of modern society.
In fact, Cardinal Hume firmly believes that the contemporary milieu is gripped with a controlling desire towards consumerism and materialism; and, such unmistakable preponderance to what the world offers, endangers peoples’ faith as a consequence (61). To be sure, it is certainly not difficult to re-interpret this particular passage in the modern context of business enterprise for the plain reason that it is normative for nearly all types of business outfits to engage in trades that ensures growth and progress.
Surely, such preeminent emphasis (which companies lay) on accruing profits has significant impacts in the peoples’ – read: employees’ – belief and value systems. Put in other words, if the company puts higher premium than most on achieving worldly success, the people employed under are said to follow suit, without them even realizing it. Guy even contends that “company traditions” can “creep into a person’s normative judgments” easily (47).
And concretely, this happens when the company unreasonably demands from its employees’ their unqualified attention and time – on account of the need to work for higher earnings – and thereby not leaving them with space for their relational and spiritual needs. The results can therefore prove to be detrimental to the peoples’ faith; for if many people would simply shrug off the need to attend to their spiritual needs, by saying that “they just do not have the time” for it, then there are reasons to think that “the many cares and snares of this world” truly render Christian faith unprolific, if not meaningless altogether.
Finally though, Jesus speaks of the Good News to end the parable in an optimistic tone: “But the other seeds fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit; some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Mat 13:8). To such description, Jesus appends: “But he who received seed into the good ground is the one who heard the word, and understood it; which also bore fruit, and brought forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Mat 13:23).
In here, Jesus’ parable reaches its climax; it offers its central thesis – namely, that the way towards a meaningful life lies in listening to what the Lord says, understanding the message thereof, and putting its lessons in one’s life (Suarez 8). Interpreting this aspect into the modern context of conducting business, and living in the world of business altogether, is surely not difficult to do. This is because there are faithful Christians – immersed, as they were, into the morally-adverse structure of business enterprise – who still are able to discover the presence of God right into their otherwise difficult situations.
One may perhaps cite how many business ethicists believe that there are still a good number of employees feel that it pays off not resorting to malpractices at the expense of compromising opportunities to practice ethical and religious principles (Guy 22). For instance, it is not uncommon to hear of stories involving high-profiled dissenters and whistleblowers who tried to rectify incidences of corruption, fraud or theft in their workplaces.
Even when their decision to come out into the open comes with a high price – e. g. eing frowned upon by colleagues, or worse, losing their jobs ultimately – these exemplary people have shown exactly how one should practice the mandate of the Gospel and seek God’s ways in every moments of life. People who act ethically and observe religious precepts faithfully in workplaces too often show the world what faith in God truly means. For faith, as the learned John Constantino writes, “deals with the nature of God, with the essence of spirituality, and with the quintessential manifestation of that spirituality in our day-to-day lives” (4).
Conclusion By way of conclusion, this paper ends with a thought that affirms the tenability of re-appropriating the Parable of the Sower into the lives of modern people, who spend much of their times in their respective workplaces. In the first place, it was learned that the parable can lend an insightful thought which affirms the universal character of God’s call to salvation – i. e. , God sows the seed of salvation to all types of environment, even those – like the business environments – that may appear to be adverse to persons’ religious and spiritual ideals.
In the succeeding discussions which were developed, it was likewise seen that Jesus’ description on the four types of soils can be taken as analogical references to the four types of attitudes that may be exercised in the workplace. But in the final analysis, the paper also affirms the fact that modern Christians are called to emulate the seed that fell into the good soil, and thereby put into practice the truths that are found in the Scriptures itself.
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