“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.” Mark 4:7 ESV
The parable was referenced in a book on fasting. A book I’ve read multiple times. And of course it’s a parable I’ve read dozens of times. But a little voice in my head whispered, “I think I’m living in the thorns.”
I ignored it.
But then the same passage came up in another book I”m reading. That’s not so surprising, since it’s a devotional on The Gospel of Mark. But still…in a matter of days, to read the same passage in two different places?
The “parable of the sower”–as it’s often called–is one of the only parables Jesus explains in detail to His disciples. The seed sown is the Word, and the various “soils” it falls on are people with various levels of receptivity to the Word.
“And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19 ESV)
Desires for what other things? Hmmmm. How about…
- the comfort and warmth of staying at home in subzero weather, rather than visiting a sick friend?
- the peace of avoiding an argument when someone mentions Jesus in a disrespectful way?
- the security of a paying job rather than the uncertainty of raising support for missions work?
- the ease of sleeping late rather than getting up to read and pray first thing in the morning?
- the pleasure of a calorie-laden “snack” which you know full well is poison to you?
Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Desires for evil things” or “forbidden things” or even “unhealthy things”… No, He just said that the desires for “other things” choked out the desire for the Word. Like weeds in the garden which look so innocent and inconsequential, these “other things” grow and spread and choke out the plants we intended to grow. Our “good intentions” are not strong enough to withstand neglect, coupled with strong competition from weeds which don’t need as much cultivation.
I’ve observed many times in my life that–for many people, at many times in their lives–the choices we face are not between “What fun!” and “Oh yuck!” Rather, they are between what’s good, what’s better and what’s best.
“Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest
God’s gifts to us are good. But God Himself is better–indeed He is best of all. Which do we value more, the creation or its Creator? As John Piper observes, in his superb book entitled A Hunger for God,
The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts…”the desires for other things”–these are not evil in themselves. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.
…The more deeply you walk with Christ, the hungrier you get for Christ…the more homesick you get for heaven…
...If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
The soul stuffed with small things…the fruit choked by thorns…death by a thousand tiny pricks. God, save me. I don’t want any counterfeit loves, any false gods. I desire to bear fruit for You in my life. But I can’t do that until I desire You most of all.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11 NIV