I'm reading in the gospels right now, and today finished the parable of the sower, which parable appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Clearly, it made an impression!
This time, the third type of ground caught my attention. As the sower (Jesus) strews the seed (God's Word) into people's ears, apparently the seed falls on different types of hearts. The third heart is the heart full of thorns. The seed is heard, but it doesn't survive on this soil. Here's why:
"And the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (Mk. 4:19)
It's always bothered me that the seed does grow here, albeit temporarily. It bothers me that the Word of God could end up being "unfruitful." It bothers me that worry and riches and pleasures (as Luke says) are strong enough to kill God's Word. But Jesus tells it like it is.
Some people do respond to the gospel; it sparks something in them. They like what they hear. But ... look what kills it: worldly worries, deceitful riches, desires and pleasures. I have to admit, that list describes most people I know. Do you know anybody who is immune to the temptation of worldly worries? That category is as big as a house! We worry about politics. We worry about international affairs. We worry that we'll be victims of crime. We worry about our mortgages, our debt, our kids' educations, our car repairs, for goodness sakes! If there's a worldly care to lose sleep over, most of my friends will do it. How in the world do we get rid of worldly worries? By sharing them on facebook? Ha!
We're equally sucked in by the deceitfulness of riches here in the Western world. And the Eastern, Southern, and Northern worlds too. If you have riches, you're deceived into a false security, and if you don't have riches, you're equally deceived that they would provide the same. Beyond security, we truly believe that wealth gives us joy in our lives, better relationships, beauty in our days, better health, leisure time and ease.
We are utterly deceived.
I will not bore you with the many excuses I've heard from friends about how they are not sucked in by the lure of wealth. They can take money or leave it, they say. They're not worshiping money; they're merely being good stewards. They're not really attached to their money; God has merely blessed them. They cannot share as much as they otherwise might because they really need to keep it in the family and invest in their children's lives. (Sigh) I've heard all this and more. We are deceived.
And the third patch of thorns in these hearts? "Pleasures and desires." At least my non-believing friends are honest about pursuing their pleasures. My Christian friends often keep theirs under wraps, and if the pleasure is a sinful one, they really keep it hidden.
Let me put it bluntly, and you can take offense if you like. If you're a Christian man who spends more time fussing about the opposite political party than you do reading your Bible, who longs for the day when you can afford that sports car you clearly can never afford, and who has a porn issue -- you are nurturing a heart of thorns where Jesus's gospel can never reign.
If you're a Christian woman who spends hours fretting over the finances, the kids, the finances, the pets, the finances, and your own looks (!!), who solves these worries by shopping and piling on more debt, and whose favorite passtime is gossiping with buddies -- you are deliberately growing a heart of thorns where God's Word cannot transform you.
I didn't say it. Jesus said it. And I'll add that that woman is often me. I found this passage utterly convicting today. Me, who worries about everything and even a few things unworriable. Me, who scrambles for every last dollar I can get and clutches it like a miser. Me, whose secrets sins are worry and covetousness.
Your heart is a garden. Weed it.