“The seed sown among the thorns is the one who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Matthew 13:22

Wow, this is a truly beautiful place to live.

I found myself speaking those words out loud last week during our vacation in Florida.  A relative of the family graciously allowed us to stay at their home while they were away.  And, man, it felt like we had discovered utopia.  The warm, breezy weather.  The palm trees.  The tranquilizing sound of the ocean. It was beautiful.  An old commercial jingle kept rewinding in my head:

“If you need it bad,
we’ve got it good.
If you need it bad come to Florida!”

The person who made that song was not lying.

And yet what surprised me was what existed just on the other side of the town where we were staying.  This part of town was not utopian in any sense.  The buildings seemed old and worn down.  The neighborhood was one that was highly under-resourced and neglected.  Their seem to be a depression hovering over the area—a heaviness upon the faces of the residents.  Coincidentally, that may have been the only time the sun failed to shine during our time there.  It was fitting considering the vast contrast in conditions.  Based on the very comfortable and pleasant environment of the place we were staying, an area like the one that existed just on the other side of a bridge was inconceivable.

Jesus’ object lesson of the seed sower and the four soils is probably His most important parable..  What gives this teaching its level of importance is the fact that it reveals the common conditions of the human heart that prevent people from understanding and responding favorably to the Word of God.  While we should be on guard against all three of the ‘bad soils’ (only one soil produced spiritual fruit), what Jesus says about the thorny soil might be most concerning to professing believers.

The person (heart condition) Jesus is describing is interesting.  It would seem to me that this person’ problem does not lie at the place of understanding the word.  I would venture to say that there may even be present a genuine affection for God’s Word.  The problem is found in the area of personal loyalty.  The “cares of the world” (earthly, short-sighted perspective) and the “deceitfulness of riches” are working hand and hand to neutralize the Word and render it ineffective in the life of the hearer.  What’s interesting is that it is not just the world’s riches that choke the effectiveness of the Word, but its deceiving power of the heart.  “Riches” here is not merely referring to money.  It can be any thing that promises happiness—a utopian state of being.  We may be deceived into prioritizing planning for retirement over doing God’s will, for example.  Or we may be deceived into pursuing a popular reputation against seeking the glory of God.  It is deceitful in the sense that those pursuits may bring a degree of happiness and a sense of security, but it never tells you of the devastation that is just on the other side of the bridge.

It is also deceiving in light of its temporal nature.  Florida was a wonderful place to visit.  It was however, not my home.  We can acquire for ourselves a very comfortable and enjoyable life here on earth.  Nevertheless, this earth is home for no one.  To prioritize the cares of this world over seeking and doing the will of God is to suffer from a dangerous short-sightedness—one that may very well lead to you hearing Jesus say, “Depart from Me…I never knew you”.

As we got off the plane upon returning home,  we were met abruptly with the chilling winds of Wisconsin.  The skies were gray and the grass brown.  Thankfully, we were prepared for that reality.  .
In Him,

Pastor Mark