Within Wisdom Note this week, we will begin a three-part series on how life is like a seed. There are so many lessons that we can learn from farming. It is rich in its analogies of life. Growing up on a farm, more specifically an apple orchard, we learned first hand the struggles and hardships of farming. So it is with life at times, but unless we plant good seeds continually, we will never reap a good harvest.
God instructs us to learn spiritual principles from Creation. Have you considered the example of the seed?
Let time travel backward a few months and imagine that it is now springtime! Farmers are busy planting their fields. Gardeners are cleaning up their yards and preparing their gardens. They are taking little seeds and placing them in the ground so that they will grow into beautiful flowers and fruitful plants. There is nothing quite like a bouquet of fresh flowers or the taste of fresh vegetables from your own garden!
Growing up on the farm, our primary crop was apples from the 40 acres of apple trees in our orchard. We also had a very large vegetable and flower garden that we all worked in. Regardless if the plant is an apple tree, corn stalk, or hollyhock flower, each one starts with a seed of the same kind of plant.
Seeds come in different shapes and sizes, with each type having different requirements for germination (the process in which seeds sprout and begin to grow). Small seeds must be placed as delicately as possible in the soil so that they do not get buried too deep. They are usually planted together in groups, ensuring that some will grow into thriving plants. Larger seeds, on the other hand, are buried deeper and generally with fewer in a group. Some seeds prefer warm, dry environments while others require environments that are cold and moist. There are seeds that germinate in less than five days while others take five months—or even longer!
Because there is a wide range of seed types, man has learned a seemingly endless variety of methods to cause seeds to sprout and grow. One common treatment is exposing the seed to a cold, almost freezing, temperature for a specific length of time, mimicking winter. Certain seeds, such as some carnivorous plants from Australia or some pine cones germinate when they are exposed to fire. Some germinate when immersed in water. Others, such as Cyclamen, germinate when they are kept in the dark for a certain period. Hard-shell seeds must be scarred or cracked. Some seeds can sit dormant for several years before something triggers them to germinate.
As you will come to see, the seed has many spiritual parallels to God’s work and our Christian lives. Following the teaching of Jesus when he shared the message of the end times in Mark 13:28-29, “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door.” So now let us “learn a lesson” and learn the example of the seed.
What Is a Seed?
A seed is basically a copy of the plant it came from. Genetically, it has all the information needed to grow into a complete plant. A seed consists of an embryo and a food store, surrounded and protected by an outer seed coat. The food store is large enough to allow the plant to grow its first leaves so that it can start producing its own food through the plant and roots. The outer coat varies in size and thickness, depending on the plant. Under the right conditions, this perfect little “package” will grow and develop into a wonderful new plant, providing food, shelter, or beauty.
As mentioned earlier, a seed with a thicker shell may need to be scarred or cracked to ensure germination. In addition, some seed embryos are not fully developed for germination. In such cases, the seed needs to go through a waiting or curing period before it is ready.
One universal truth of every plant that grows from a seed is that the original seed will die or be destroyed in the process of the birth and growth of the new plant. In the same manner, for God’s salvation to grow through his disciples, the original seed, which is Christ, had to die. This is taught by Jesus in John 12:23-26, “Jesus replied, ‘Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.'”
In our Wisdom Note for this week, we had our first of three lessons on how life is like a seed. We considered the example of the seed, what the seed is made of, and that to produce fruit the seed must die to itself. Next we will explore the five basic conditions that every seed needs to grow.