The curse of being the oldest child is that sometimes the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I was talking with a friend of mine years ago and he commented, “man you sure seem to be weighted down with your responsibilities.” Guilty.
My folks divorced when I was 10 or so in the early 1970s. After my mom and me and my younger siblings moved to Arkansas, we found ourselves navigating a lot of new realities. We had never been well off by any stretch when we were with my dad but living on a single mom’s budget at minimum wage was difficult.
A few years later, my mother was working through some struggles with a counselor, and they decided to have a family session and bring the kids. I don’t remember much about the session, but I do remember him asking who is in charge around here and to my surprise they all pointed to me (including my mother). Thirteen is a little early to have the weight of the world on your shoulders.
As we continue our study with parable of the soils, that is what we find today. People who are faltering in their faith because of the worry of the world.
We pick up in Matthew 13 (NASB).
3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the Sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 “And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 “He who has ears, let him hear.”
Jesus describes the third soil as the land of thorns. I must admit that I struggle to see the relevance of thorns being an obstacle to growth. My limited experience with thorns is around roses or maybe an occasionally brush with thorns in a wooded area. Irritating – yes. Debilitating – no. Here is a lady who illustrates how the thorns work. Click here to see video.
Listening to the explanation of Jesus in verse 22 of Matthew 13
18 “Hear then the parable of the Sower. 19 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he afalls away. 22 “And 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. 23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
Let’s make some observations:
- Seed was sown among thorns
- This person hears the Word of the Kingdom
- Worry of the world choke the Word
- Worry is singular
- Worry defined by Louw-Nida- a feeling of apprehension or distress in view of possible danger or misfortune
- Wealth is described as deceitful
- Deceitfulness of wealth choke the Word
- When word is choked it becomes unfruitful
If we get to pick how we die, I choose “not drowning”. Close second is choking on a fish bone or even a fish stick for that matter. Not being able to breath is one of the things that we all hate the idea of. I had a root canal a few years ago and my oral surgeon had become way too comfortable with expecting her patients to breath through their noses during the procedure and completely covered my mouth with some contraption. As a mouth breather, I tried to humor her and finally could not take it any longer. She was smothering me.
The seed in this soil was literally having the life choked out of it. It was unfruitful because of the constriction of the thorns.
The thorns in the parable represents
- The worry of the world
- The deceitfulness of riches
Being distracted with all the trouble of world is easy to do. Pain seems to demand our attention. All we need to do is remember a time when you stubbed a toe or hit your finger with a hammer. Even discomfort to a small appendage can force us to focus all our attention on the pain. We have a real propensity to try to avoid pain at all costs. That is what worry is all about, pain avoidance. So, whether we are worried about physical, psychological or emotional pain, all of these worries can strangle the effect of the word in our lives. No wonder Jesus spends so much time encouraging us not to worry.
But the pursuit of world wealth can also have a negative impact on our lives. Listen to what Paul say to Timothy in his first letter (Chapter 6)
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and in this parable is a detrimental to healthy spiritual growth.
I wish I could say that after 50 years of “growing up” that I was less inclined to wear the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m not. I still think deeply and responsively toward things that need to be fixed. But I have learned to be more dependent on God who say, “Do not fear for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. Surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10)” Progress to be sure. Decades of learning that God can be trusted. Maybe I am learning that I don’t have to let the worry of the world choke out the Word of God in my life, even though that is definitely my temptation.
To think about: what chokes out the word in your life?
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Tim Howington. Follower of Jesus. Husband to Terri. Dad to Josh. Wanna-be writer. Bird Watcher. Novice Fly Fisherman. Discipler of Men. Some people call me the Howitzer.