22.The seed sown among the thorns is the man who hears the word, and the concerns of life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and he becomes unfruitful.
23.But the seed sown on good ground is the person who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit, either one hundred, or sixty, or thirty times over.
Firstly, apologies to all readers of Tosin’s Bible Blog. This blog post was supposed to have been posted last week, which is what I had promised the previous week. However, I was not able to fulfill that promise, so I have had to postpone it by a week and post it this week instead.
In the first part of our examination of this parable, we came across people who are like seed sown on stony ground, in that the devil immediately comes to steal away the word that they have received. We also came across people that are like Christians without roots, in that their faith shrivels away at the first sign of persecution.
This week, we are looking at the two remaining types of seed. Jesus talks about the seed sown among thorns. This is “the man who hears the word, and the concerns of life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and he becomes unfruitful” (“man” here can obviously mean “woman” too). I think that this verse is one that many many Christians, including myself, need to take very seriously. Jesus is saying that the seed is sown, and it does develop roots. However everyday cares and issues come and crowd out or “choke” this seed. So it’s like if a Christian were to hear the word of God, accept it, develop roots, and start growing. However, the concerns of life enter in, and occupy our minds so that we just do not have time or mental energy to focus on the things of God. In practical terms, this could be when we are Christians, but we are so busy running around for our work, our families (which are obviously good and important investments) and a thousand and one other endeavours that they take the time that we could otherwise invest into our relationship with God, and our communion with Him, and our faith just remains where it is, or grows stagnant, and does not result in any of the fruit that demonstrate the vibrant vitality of a day by day walk with Christ. As Christians, all we have to do is remain in Christ, and let His words remain in us, and we will bear fruit. (John 15) We do not need to force it, or push out the fruits ourselves. I hope I am not stretching the analogy too far here, but I note that Jesus does not say that the plant itself dies, but rather that it becomes unfruitful. Could this suggest that the faith of this particular person does notactually die, but does not bear fruits? In this case, it would be different from the plant which shoots up without roots, because that does shrivel, indicating that perhaps their faith can die altogether….
As a Christian this is something that I struggle with a lot. On one hand, of course we need to work. The Bible says that “He who does not work shall not eat” – 2 Thessalonians 3v10. On the other hand, I know that work and the demands of work can often be the main things that take up all our effort and thought and energy, and God and time spent in His work and in His word often come in at a very distant second place. I try my hardest to organise my life so that while I am working to earn money to live as a responsible citizen, my life itself remains focused on God and His word and His work, knowing that this is my greatest priority, this is the reason I remain on earth. Thinking on this passage, this occurs to me that there is a certain amount of nutrients in the soil. Once again, I hope I am not overstretching this analogy – perhaps the reason the weeds can grow up to choke the plant is because they get the nutrients of the soil until they can grow to such an extent that they can grow to choke the plant. If we don’t want the thorns to choke our faith, perhaps we have to deliberately and consciously invest the nutrients of time, mental energy, determination to the “plant” of our faith, so that it is our faith that grows, and few nutrients are left for the thorns that would grow to choke it.
I also note that Jesus speaks directly here about “the deceitfulness of riches”. I think that this is one that churches can consider corporately. I have been to a few churches where as a corporate body they are very concerned about growing in terms of wealth etc. However, there seems to be little actual fruit. Few people are being saved and it seems to be the same people being circulated among the churches. I think that it is quite widely recognised that it is so possible for a church to get bound up in maintaining itself – running various programs and seminars and a big program of activity that little actual time is spent reaching and shepherding the lost. (If you are not a Christian, that means you.) Sometimes, the emphasis on money is very very pronounced. I think that this could come under “the deceitfulness of riches”. I think that as individuals need to remember it, so do churches, that we should be building treasures in heaven, not down here on earth. As long as our wealth is based down here on earth, it is all going to decay, or otherwise vanish, eventually – whether that wealth belongs to an individual, or to a whole nation or to a whole church movement. What will remain is what we do for God, according to His precepts and requirements, not our own, or those of any man…Just saying!
Finally, we can now move on to the last seed, that sown on good ground. This seed represents the person who hears God’s word, understands it, and bears fruit. This is obviously what we should all aspire to. As Christians, we are here to bear fruit. God designed this world to be abundantly fruitful. If we look at actual fruit trees in their season, it is amazing how much fruit a single tree can produce. (I know that Jesus is here using an analogy of wheat and grain, however I am not so familiar with these as I am with fruit trees.) If we were to think of a single corn cob (maize), there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of little grains of corn on each one. (Look at this picture on the Wikipedia site) Yet each corn cob was planted from a SINGLE one of these grains. This is how it is to be with us as Christians. We too are supposed to bear fruit, abundantly and liberally. If we were to think of apple trees, or corn cobs, then we would know that 100 times fruit is really not a big deal for either of these – they cheerfully manage and effortlessly exceed even this – sometimes year after year. Apparently an apple tree can bear fruit for 100 years (although 30 years is more common)! Apparently, according to this article, there is a pear tree that was planted in 1630 in America – which still bears fruit today, almost 400 years later! So as Christians, let us aspire right for the hundred times measure. Let us remember that this is God’s style, this is what He is like. If we would just remain in Him and in His word, He will delight to make us fruitful in just the same way as He does with the other parts of His creation.
One final thing that I always think about this parable – in the actual parable the seeds sown are passive, that is, they cannot choose how or where they are sown – they just land, and have to deal with the circumstances, and whether they bear fruit or not is not really “their fault”. But we as human beings, and as Christians especially, are definitely not passive. Let us choose, let us determine to be like the seed which falls on the good ground, and invest our efforts etc in good soil. Let us use every drop of human decision and determination to be all that we can be for God (note, for God, not “church” – sadly there is often a difference.) What, is God going to say “No” if we are determined to bear legitimate and abundant fruits for His kingdom?! 😉
Photo of wheat stalks by Hans on Pixabay