Word Chokers : Reflections on the Parable of the Sower
2825 Words, read time approx : 8-11 minutes
As I started to work on my backyard clean-up this Spring I took on a project without considering the volume of work that would follow. An area of my backyard had been hijacked by a gruesome bandit of weeds who had choked the very life out of every plant in the vicinity. I was on a mission to tear down these intruders and make a new home for some fresh seedlings.
Little did I know how entangled and deeply rooted these critters had planted themselves. It reminded me of the nature of sin and how it “so easily ensnares us”. (Hebrews 12:1) When Jesus explained the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:13-20, Luke 8:11-15) He said there were three sins in particular that have the ability to choke out the liveliness of God’s Word in our hearts, rendering us unfruitful.
Similar to every gardener who seeks to nurture and protect their garden, every Christian who desires to live a fruitful life will need to be on guard against the thorns that come to choke out all signs of spiritual life and vitality. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)
Cares of This World
“The cares of this world” are the first enemy Jesus exposes in the trio of thorns. The Greek word for “care” is merimna, from metro, meaning “to divide” and noos, “the mind” (ref 1). The cares of this life work to divide one’s mind making a person unable to concentrate on a single subject of choice. The more cares a person has, the harder the fight to maintain peace of mind. Soon enough the focus on the target, namely God’s Word, is lost in an attempt to perpetually manage the worries that plague us.
Jesus’ teachings on worry help us to maintain a proper perspective on life.
“Therefore I say, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25, 26)
Jesus taught that we are highly esteemed by our Heavenly Father who desires to care for our every need. Our worries express a lack of trust in our Father’s love, power and provision. When we find ourselves abiding in the perfect love of God, trusting in Him, there is no room for fear or worry because worry and trust are diametrically opposed to one another. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
When we place our trust in God through difficult life circumstances, the Lord will work on our behalf and grant us His peace.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
The simplest way to place our trust in God over a situation is to give it to Him in prayer.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7)
In addition to prayer, we must vigilantly guard our thought life from the negative cycle of worry, anxiety and fear. We do so by taking our thoughts captive to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replacing our negative, fearful thoughts with faith-filled affirmations based on God’s truth.
The apostle Paul summarized these steps of prayer, surrendering our thoughts and replacing them with godly ones when he wrote in Philippians 3:6-8
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.
If you’re being plagued by cares, worry or anxiety, take time now to pray this prayer to give your worries over to God, inserting your own personal words where noted.
Lord Jesus, I come before you now, thanking you for the power and privilege of prayer. I also thank you for (tell God some things you are thankful for today). I submit to you every care that is on my mind and in my heart. I specifically cast upon you the following concerns: (tell God the things that are causing you anxiety). I ask that you perfect the things concerning me and give me your peace. Help me Lord, to refocus my attention on your promises to provide for my needs, to give me wisdom, guidance, strength, hope and grace. I receive every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus by faith and declare Jesus to be the Lord over my heart, mind, soul and body. I pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Deceitfulness of Riches
The second “word choker” mentioned by Jesus is “the deceitfulness of riches”. We are deceived when we begin to believe that riches are the solution to all of life’s problems. While money is a useful tool that has become somewhat indispensable in our Western culture, it is not the panacea to life’s difficulties. If it were, we could conclude that every wealthy person “has it all together” and is without problems. Ironically wealth can at times cause greater problems than modest gain could ever produce.
Solomon became the richest man of his time. He was the Warren Buffet or Bill Gates of his day. Yet he found that his great riches caused him even greater trouble.
Solomon realized that people who love wealth can never find true satisfaction with what they have obtained. “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Contrarily, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)
Solomon also learned that money attracts unwanted company. “As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?” (Ecclesiastes 5:11) The Proverbs also teach that “the rich has many friends” and “wealth makes many friends”. (Proverbs 14:20, 19:4, italic added) Wealth has the power to attract people’s attention and even their friendship, but when the party is over, the people are gone. No amount of money can buy a true and loyal friend.
Stress and Sleep
Another problem Solomon discovered in his opulent lifestyle was that maintaining and managing his wealth caused great stress, even to the point of robbing him of a good night’s sleep. “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) The psalmist also noted the vanity and exhaustion of living for money. “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so [God] gives His beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) Sound sleep is the one luxury many rich men cannot afford.
Solomon knew that his wealth could not secure him from the misfortunes of life. In modern times, Stock market crashes, natural disasters and unforeseen calamities have brought rich men low over night. “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him.” (Ecclesiastes 5:13, 14) (See also Proverbs 23:4-5) Our sense of security must be found in God who is unchanging, not in the accumulation of wealth. “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
Can’t Take It with You
Solomon realized that his money would not be a currency accepted in heaven. In fact, everything we earn and gain on earth will be left behind when we die. “As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand.” (Ecclesiastes 5:15) For this reason, Jesus taught that we should focus on building up our heavenly inheritance where we will spend eternity.* “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19, 20)
The Expense of Riches
Solomon came to believe that if an entire life is spent accumulating wealth only to then die and leave it behind, it is really a great loss. Furthermore, if our years on earth are spent in isolation, sorrow, illness or anger because of our wealth, we not only lose our riches when we die, we also waste our life this side of eternity. “And this also is a severe evil– Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? All his days he also eats in darkness, And he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.” (Ecclesiastes 5:16:17) A life that is lived with peace, joy and contentment is invaluable regardless of our net worth. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, Than great treasure with trouble.” (Proverbs 15:16)
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that it’s not all about the bottom line. How much you earn will by no means guarantee a life of happiness or greatness. Avoid the deceitful voice of riches that say, “Have me and you have it all.” Instead, heed the voice of Solomon, one who had it all and found out that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Or better yet, receive the advice of Jesus, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Has the deceitfulness of riches robbed you of the joy and peace God desires to grant you? If so, pray this prayer of surrender to God granting Him Lordship over your finances as well as trusting Him with your entire life and needs.
Lord God, I come before You acknowledging my own vulnerability to the deceitfulness of riches and wealth. Teach me to be content with the things I have without coveting what others possess or the life they live. I trust You with the care of my life and believe that you will supply for every need I have according to Your riches and glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
“This is not to suggest that we can “earn our way to heaven”. Salvation is a free gift from God to all those who place their trust in Jesus Christ and his death as payment for their sins. However, once we receive God’s gift of eternal life, we can gain a greater inheritance in heaven by our good deeds done unto God”.
Pleasures of Life
The third group of thorns that can choke out God’s Word from working in our lives are the “pleasure of life”. Before we diagnose this problem, it’s first important to clarify that God is not a cosmic kill-joy looking to take all the fun out of life. In fact, God is the author of laughter, joy, peace, life and everything that is by nature good. A life lived by God’s design will inevitably result in greater peace and joy. (Romans 14:17)
The implication of this text is not that we should walk around gloomy and depressed, never enjoying life. Instead it is the warning against an unrelenting pursuit of pleasure above all else. When we seek to have “fun” over every other priority in life, we can end up compromising our faith for activities that are destructive in nature. Or, in a more subtle deception, we become overly busy with activities that aren’t necessarily sinful in nature, but take all of our time and add no value to the kingdom of God.
The desire for pleasure is actually given to us by God and therefore can only be fulfilled through a relationship with Him. Jesus repeatedly beckons those in need of life, refreshment, fulfillment and satisfaction to come to Him.
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
Contrarily, worldly pleasures and sin are like an oasis; they come and go, but leave us unsatisfied and disillusioned. When Eve was first tempted to sin, she “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise.” (Genesis 3:6) Little did she know that the outward appearance was only hiding rotten fruit on the inside. Her testimony is common to us all, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)
We have all eaten our fair share of rotten fruit being deceived by its shiny appearance. We have committed idolatry by placing our hope in an event, experience, position or a person to provide us with true everlasting happiness, instead of placing our trust in the living God. We have ignored the screaming inner voice of our conscience, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” only to find ourselves in the end ridden with guilt and shame.
James summarizes this best when he says,
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:1-6)
Is there a particular sin that the Holy Spirit has brought to your mind as you’ve read these words that you know is hindering God’s work in your life? If so, you can be confident that God desires you to have victory over every temptation and that no sin is too big or to small to bring to his attention. God’s word promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Come to God now acknowledging any specific sin before Him and asking Him to forgive and cleanse your conscience.
Lord, I come to you now with confidence in your mercy and in the power of Jesus’ blood. Forgive me Lord for my sin of (be specific) and wash me clean of all unrighteousness. I turn now from my sin and turn to You. Teach me to enjoy You more than any pleasure in this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
As we come to God and lay down those things that are hindering our walk with Him (cares, deceitfulness of riches, pleasures) we will find that God’s Word has the ability to flourish in our hearts and bear fruit. (Hebrews 12:1-5) As a gardener works diligently to remove all weeds from his garden, so must we diligently guard our thought life from the snares of the wicked one. So be on guard, good solider, watch over your heart for it truly is the wellspring of life.
If you enjoyed it, you may also enjoy, my book Born to Grow.
Join Mailing List