Reading through the familiar “Parable of the Sower”, I was struck by the seed that fell among the thorns. I have heard and read this parable since I was a youth, but never noticed something significant about this particular seed. It’s something that speaks right to the heart of our culture.
It says, “And other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it, and choked it out.” I never noticed that phrase, “the thorns grew up with it”. In other words, the seed and the thorns were both small and grew together. You could say they were both familiar.
We know from the text that the seed are God’s words. It states that “the seed which feel among the thorns: these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit into maturity.” There it tell us what the thorns are: worries, riches and pleasure
In today’s North American culture, most have grown up with words of God as well as worry, riches, and a focus on gaining the pleasures of life. God, faith and wealth blend all together. Our grandparents have seen our nation go from war and scarcity, to a land of plenty, to the appearance of plenty. Today, everyone gets what they want with this cool shiny card named “VISA”.
The evidence of the “choking” is all around us. From obesity. to stress related illness to increased unsensored media, it’s hard not to notice. However, the greatest display of this choking according to this parable isn’t the “riches and pleasures of this life” but the lack of fruit being able to be brought to maturity because of the choking. The tragedy isn’t in riches and pleasure, but how we have allowed these to influence us, specifically as the church. They have stalled the fruitful lives we are meant to live.
What’s tricky is that because we have “grown up” among the thorns and the Word, the two can blend in our minds. With a Bible in one hand and money in the other, we have create concepts of God that are a mix of the Word and the culture we live in. Both the seed and the thorns are familiar to us. This familiarity is deceptive.
Our love for our lives, our riches, and our pleasures choke out desires to bring the Kingdom to a culture immersed in poverty of the soul. Because we carry with us a measure of fruit, we can feel we are living in enough. We need an opening of our eyes to see the truth. God desires for us to experience “mature fruit” as the verse states, not just fruit. Why settle for half of what can be? To engage in mature fruit, we need an awakening to what the love of riches are: thorns that choke.
God desires more for our lives than we are settling for. If there is a more mature fruit, what could it possibly look like?
Perhaps “mature fruit” looks like justice?
Perhaps it looks like healthy stewardship of riches?
Maybe it looks like radical generosity and hospitality extended even to the stranger?
Maybe it goes beyond loving the loveable and extends to the enemy?
Perhaps it goes beyond the idea of altruism, and “giving back” to sacrifice motivated by Christ’s compassion?
Mature fruit happens when we make the shift from “inviting Jesus into our lives” to the awakening that He is inviting us into His. This changes the focus from us putting Jesus on our smorgasbord of choice to choose from to radical discipleship that dies to self and follows.