“Other seeds fell among thorns that shot up and choked out the tender blades.“ – Vs 7 (NLT)
In chapter 13 we have the well-known parable of the seeds. Or better yet, the parable of the soils. Jesus tells of four different types of soils on which the seed of the Word is spread. Four soils – four different responses. One was soil by the side of the road. Another was soil surrounded by rocks. A third was soil in which thorns had already taken root. And finally, there was the good soil. All four soils received the same seed. All four soils represent different kinds of people and their responses to the hearing of the Word of God. In this case the Word refers to the Gospel – the good news regarding Jesus Christ and His kingdom. In Jesus’ audience that day were all four types of people. Jesus goes on to give us a clear explanation of what these people were like.
The first group are those who hear the word of the kingdom but do not understand it (Vs 19). It makes no sense to them. So it never takes root in their lives. There’s no response. And what they have heard is snatched away by the enemy. He distracts them and diverts their attention away from the truth of the Word.
The next group hears the Word and receives it with joy (Vs 20), but they never allow it to take root in their lives. This is an emotional response and it proves temporary. Because as soon as any kind of trouble comes into their lives due to the Word, they bail. Initially, they loved the idea behind the Gospel, but when it fails to make their life easier, happier, and trouble-free, they jettison the truth of God’s Word. They walk away disappointed and disillusioned.
The third group are those whose lives are already filled with the things of this world. They’ve allowed their lives to become infested with the “thorns” of materialism, wealth, pleasure, prestige, etc. The uncultivated soil of their lives has been the perfect place for weeds and thorns to take root. So when they hear the Word, it is unable to take root and flourish because it is overpowered by the presence of worldly desires. Jesus calls it the “worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth” (Vs 22). Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th-Century pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, referred to this group of people in the following way in a sermon entitled “Sown Among Thorns”: “You are religious persons, and to all appearance you are under the influence of godliness. You exhibit plenty of leaf, but there is no corn in the ear, no substance in your Christianity.”
Spurgeon goes on to say: “The seed sown among thorns lived and continued to grow. And in many people’s minds the Gospel of divine truth is growing after a fashion: they understand it better, can defend it more valorously, and speak of it more fluently. Moreover, it does influence them in some form and degree, for gross vices are forsaken. They are decent imitations of believers: you can see the shape of an ear: the stalk has struggled up through the thorns until you can see its head, and you are led to expect corn. But go to that apparent wheat-ear, and feel it: there are the sheaths but there is nothing in them; you have all the makings of an ear of wheat, but it will yield no grain. I would speak to those before me who, perhaps, have been baptized and are members of the church; I want to ask of them a question or two. Do you not think that there is a great deal of empty profession nowadays? Do you not think that many have a name to live and are dead? ‘Yes,’ say you, ‘I know a neighbor whom I judge to be in that condition.’ May not another neighbor judge the same of you? Would it not be well to raise the question about yourself? Have you really believed in the Lord Jesus? Are you truly converted from sin and self? Turn that sharp eye of yours homeward for a while. Examine your own actions, and judge your condition by them. Put yourself into the crucible. O my God, what if I should be a preacher to others, and should be myself a castaway! Will not every deacon and elder, and every individual church member, speak to himself after the same fashion. You will go to your Sunday school class this afternoon; will you be teaching the children what you do not know? You mean to go to a meeting this evening and talk to others about conversion; will you be exhorting them to that which you have never yourself experienced? Will it be so? You do not need fine preaching, but you do need probing in the conscience. A thorough examination will do the healthy no harm, and it may bless the sick. ‘Lord, let me know the worst of my case,’ is one of my frequent prayers, and I suggest it to you.”
This third group is a significant one in the church today. It consists of those who hear the Word, seemingly respond to it, but never seem to live lives that exhibit the fruit of a life that has been changed by it. Why? Because the Gospel, with its message of salvation and sanctification, has been choked out by worldly cares and obsessions. Spurgeon puts it this way: “So much then about the seed: it was good seed, it was sown, it was received by the soil, it grew and promised well, but yet in the end it was unfruitful. No doubt multitudes, who receive Christianity, become regular attendants at our place of worship, and are honest in their moral character; but Christ is not all in all to them. He holds a very secondary place in their affections. Their wheat is overshadowed with a thicket of thorns, and is so choked that it comes to nothing. Their religion is buried beneath their worldliness.”
We all have thorns in our soil. We all struggle with the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth. That doesn’t mean we’re wealthy, but that we’ve bought into the lie that wealth and affluence is the answer to all our problems. Our lack of material possessions or adundance of them can both lead to the life-changing message of the Gospel being choked out of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with the seed and there’s nothing wrong with the soil. It is just that we have allowed our love affair with the things of this world to fill our lives to the point that there is no room for the Gospel to grow. And without its growth and maturity, there is no fruit. As Spurgeon said so well, our religion becomes buried by our worldliness. So is the Word being choked out in your life? Are the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth crowding out the message of spiritual transformation in your life? He who has ears, let him hear. Listen to the words of Jesus. Examine your life. Confess your love affair with the world. Allow Him to do some serious weeding so that He might pull up the thorns that fill your life and create room for His message of truth to take root and grow. He can and He will. And then your life can be like the fourth soil – fruitful and abundant.
Father, open the eyes of those whose lives are choked by the cares of this world. It happens to all of us. We get wrapped up in materialism and pleasure, worldliness and wealth. This world seems to offer everything we need for happiness. But Your Word makes it clear that true joy and eternal life can only be found in Your Son Jesus Christ. Forgive us for our religiousness that only simulates a changed life, when in reality we are still living lives that are in love with the world. Remove the thorns so that our lives might be fruitful and full. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men