By Brennan Hamrin
Matthew 13:7-8: Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
When I was asked if I’d be interested in writing a blog post on the third seed in this parable I got really excited! The seed that “hears the Word and is choked out by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” is my favorite! It’s my favorite because it hits close to home. It doesn’t matter how many times I read Matthew 13, when I read about the third seed I’m always convicted.
Reading through the parable, one thing that stuck out to me is the contrast between the seed sown among the thorns, and the seed sown on good soil. Presumably, the sower is planting a crop and using the same type of seed. The difference then doesn’t lie in the seed, but in the soil. The soil, however, makes a big difference- because of the soil, one crop yields fruit and the other does not.
I happen to be terrible at gardening. I don’t know a thing about growing and I can’t keep plants alive to save my life. But I Googled “planting,” and the first article I skimmed stated, “In the long run, the success of your garden depends on making healthy garden soil.”
Unfortunately, the seed didn’t fall on good soil, the soil was inhabited by thorns. Webster’s dictionary defines a thorn as, “a sharp, impeding process.” The idea of the thorn as an impeding process really struck me because it so perfectly describes their effect in the parable. They slow the progress and growth of the seed and eventually choke it out completely.
Further on in the chapter, in verses 22-23, Christ explains what these thorns are;
“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
The thorns that strangle the life out of the one who has heard the Word are the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. I don’t know about you, but this is something I can relate to! The cares of the world, all the things that make me anxious, all my worries, fears and concerns (whether valid or trivial) have the ability to choke the life out of me. And don’t the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches go hand in hand?! People often think that riches or possessions will solve so many of their problems. I’m so guilty of this!
If only I had more money, I wouldn’t ever have to wake up and worry in the middle of the night about how we are going to pay this or that. If only I had a minivan with automatic doors I wouldn’t have to constantly open and shut, open and shut, open and shut doors as tiny people stream in and out. Then wouldn’t my life be so much easier?! This is such a trap! The enemy tells us these lies and when we believe them those thorns start to steal the breath from our lungs and choke the life out of us. They rob us of our joy. How can I live joyfully when I have to open my van doors WITH MY HANDS?! This deception keeps me from trusting the Lord to be my Strength and my Provider.
The cares of this world are overwhelming, and the enemy wants us to be overwhelmed. The end result of the thorns is that the Word is choked out. The Greek word for “choke” in verse 22 is a longer version of the one used in verse 7. In verse 7 the root word is “pnigo” which means “to choke, strangle, wring one’s neck, drown”. However, in verse 22 the word is “Sympnigo” which means “to choke utterly; to strangle completely”. The effect of the thorns is violent and lethal and the end result is that the Word is barren and produces no fruit. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The goal of the enemy is destruction, but The Word gives life. Jesus gives life, and life abundant!
The word used in verse 22 for the cares of the world is the same word used in 1 Peter 5:7 when Peter tells us, “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” I can’t carry the weight of all those cares of the world– they suffocate me. But I can cast that heavy burden on Jesus. Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)
Ultimately, the thorns stunt growth and keeps us from producing fruit. Matthew 7 says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit…Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” The word used for thornbushes is the same word for the thorns that choke out the seed. The fruit we bear is what identifies us as Christ’s.
In the parable in Matthew the common thread among all the seeds is that they all heard the Word. But James tells us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Hearing the Word is the first step, but we aren’t meant to stop there. Hearing moves on to doing- it bears fruit. James continues by telling us not to be forgetful hearers, but to be those who abide in the Word (James 1:25), This is the key to bearing fruit: abiding in the Word, in Jesus. In John 15:4-5 Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Apart from Him we can do nothing, but with Him nothing is impossible. Abide in Christ, linger in the Word and He will bring forth fruit.