In the parable of the sower, Jesus illustrates four very different ways in which the Word of God can be received.
The parable begins with a sower going out to sow some seed. As he does so, some of the seed falls on the path. That seed gets trampled on and eaten up by birds (Luke 8:5). Then there is the seed that falls on rocky ground where, because it cannot develop strong roots, the plant that springs up from that seed withers and dies (Luke 8:6). Still other seed thrown by the sower falls among thorns, or weeds, that grow up with the plant and choke it (Luke 8:7). Finally, there is seed thrown that falls on good soil, soil that is fertile. That seed grows well and produces a crop many times the size of the one individual plant (Luke 8:8).
As Jesus explains in Luke 8:11, the seed in this parable represents God's Word. As God's Word is spread throughout the world, it can be received in one of four ways. How the seed of God's Word is received and how it grows is dependent upon the ground or soil on which the seed lands. The ground or soil represents the heart of the person receiving the Word.
When a person hears the Word of God but believes only in his mind and not in his heart, he is like the path on which the first seed fell. Because the Word is not in his heart, it can be easily snatched away by Satan, preventing that person from truly receiving the gift of salvation (Luke 8:12). When a person receives the Word in his heart with joy but doesn't allow it to truly take root, he is more vulnerable to temptation. When he is unable to resist that temptation, he falls away from the faith and, like the seed on rocky ground, withers away (Luke 8:13).
The person who receives the Word in his heart but then allows the world to crowd it out is like the seed that fell among the thorns or weeds. The thorns or weeds represent the world. They can be the cares and worries of life or the riches and pleasures of the world. In either case, they have the ability to "choke" the person by crowding the Word out of the person's heart (Luke 8:14).
The final example given in this parable is the example that we should all strive for. This is the person who not only receives the Word in his heart, but keeps it there, allowing it to nourish him. When we keep God's Word in our hearts, when we follow it and live by it, we become like the good soil. We will grow in the Lord and, because our roots are deep and we are receiving the full nourishment of God's Word, we will be fruitful and able to produce a crop that is many times larger than our individual lives (Luke 8:15).