“…the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” – Matthew 13:22 (NASB).
In the little chapel, by the sea, God’s family gathered and simply worshiped. It was honoring to those who had gone before; honoring to their God, and fitting for this time. The ceiling had been raised a hundred years before that day, and it had contained the praises of His people each week ever since.
At that time the faith-driven life was obvious to me. The old had been taken care of, and the new was just that; new, fresh, invigorating. There were complications, but this new life provided an abundant supply of oxygen needed to survive in this world’s suffocating smog. All it took was an hour or so of prayer, and everything snapped back into focus. Prayer was easy. Conversation with God was free, and who wouldn’t want some of that?
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record a story Jesus told about a sower who went to sow seed. It is a story that allows us to do what we like to do best; categorize. Hopefully, we readily examine ourselves and find our place in the story. Some may find categorizing others an easier, more fulfilling pursuit. The disciples, when faced with the possibility that one of them had betrayed their Master, “…began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, ‘Surely not I?’” (Mark 14:19). We are anxious to maintain our status in the best category. We thrive on acceptance, because we all know that we have the ability to qualify in the wrong category.
In this parable, the category we would most want to fit ourselves into would be the “good soil”, that “…yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” – Matthew 13:8. I want to be “good soil”. I want my life to produce beyond my own limitations.
The soil type predicts the outcome.
If you are anything like me, you could jump to the same conclusion I have many times before when I hear this parable. When I think of someone being deceived by wealth, I think of a rich person. Jesus came across one of these people and made a request of him. “’…sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” – Luke 18:22-23.
I can easily dismiss myself from this category because I am not trapped by riches. I am not constantly concerned about someone stealing my money, or how I will maintain my yacht, my second home, or my investments. So, by default I must be “good soil”, right? I have heard the word, which is the seed. I did accept it. I am not “rich”, in monetary terms. So, good soil I must be!
Let’s take a second look at this parable. Notice that Jesus does not say that wealth is the problem here. Rather, He says that the “deceitfulness of wealth” is the issue. Also, notice that He partners this with “the worry of the world”.
What is the worry of the world? Are you worried? What are you worried about? Is it something that exists in this world? Then you have the worry of the world!
Have you ever said, “If I could just have…, then this would not be a problem”? Then you have a world-based worry, that can be solved “if only” you had a portion of the wealth of this world. You are deceived into thinking, worse still, hoping, that wealth provides the solution to your world-based, or world-confined issues.
It is not the “having” of wealth that causes thorns to sprout among the wheat in this parable. It is the lie that the “having” provides the solution to our world-based worries.
The more I think about where I am at in my faith journey, the more I recognize the ways I have allowed world-based worries invade and choke the air I breathe. Faith has become a way to “grit it out” until the day when I leave this world. That was never the way it was supposed to be.
The rich young ruler recorded in the gospel accounts desperately wanted to take off and follow Jesus wherever He went. Maybe he thought he could put his wealth “on hold” for a period of time and go on an adventure with the Messiah? He was “free” to do anything he wanted. All of his financial concerns could be taken care of by his wealth, so he could be “free”, right? No. His wealth was his security, and that which he thought gave him freedom, had gained a choke-hold on his life. That choke-hold only became evident when Jesus asked him to give it all away.
If you have lost the freedom you once felt when you accepted Christ, then you are experiencing the effect of a crop of thorns.
Is there anything that can be done?
Recognition is everything. While a crop is growing it can be difficult to tell the difference between the crop you want, and the weeds you don’t. Once you can SEE the weeds, then you can have them removed.
In this parable that seed is the word from God. The soil is our hearts. Our heart is the place where our motivations exist. As the thorns begin to become evident in our hearts we have the opportunity to ask God to remove them.
“He who has ears, let him hear” – Matthew 13:9.