Mark 4:18-19 (NKJV) 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
We have been looking at how the Bible teaches that a Christian should walk according to God’s ways. We have discovered that one of the most important things God has given us to accomplish this is the Word of God written in the Bible. Everything God intended a Christian to be is contained in the many seeds found in God’s Word. All that must happen is that the seed find good ground, be cultivated and allowed to grow to fruition. If it does, sin will not be a problem and the abundant life that Jesus spoke about in John 10:10 will be ours.
We have found a few things to be true. The seed of the Word is always good seed. It was designed by God to interact with the soil. It will produce what God sent it to produce (Isaiah 55:11.) The variable is the soil. The soil that the seed of God’s Word was designed to react with is the heart of man. If the heart is good ground, the Word “seed” will produce what God intends for it to produce in the believer’s life. The Greek word for salvation can be defined as all the blessings bestowed upon man in Christ. That is what is available if we plant the Word in our hearts when they are good ground.
There are two types of ground in Mark 4. There is good ground and bad ground. The bad ground is divided into 3 types. We have studied two. The first was pathway. This is ground that is hard. The Word may go forth to them but it does not penetrate. Satan steals the Word from this person before it can produce. The second was stony ground. This is ground that is shallow. The seed falls upon it and takes root quickly. It begins to grow but Jesus says it has no root in itself. When pressure comes the seed is easily plucked up and an offense is usually left behind. Both are incapable of producing fruit from the Word of God. We need to guard against these things.
The next type of bad ground is what we will call thorny ground. I find this to be the most common and the most tragic type of ground in this parable. It says that some of the seeds of God’s Word fall among thorns. These seeds do take root. The soil is good enough to growing a plant capable of producing the life God intended. The problem is not the soil itself. The problem is what else has been allowed to grow along with the Word.
I choose to believe that most Christians try to be good ground for God’s Word. They go to church. They read their bible. They do some study at least. They pray and try to live according to what they hear. The problem is that there are so many other things in their life that produce plants that are not from Bible seeds. They come from the seeds that the world brings. They may be found in entertainment or education. They may be part of our culture or our life experience. Wherever they come from, they produce plants that are not part of what God’s Word is trying to do in us.
The result is that these plants begin to crowd out the Bible plants. They take our time and our attentions. They drain our “soil” of its ability to produce. The Word plant grows, but it does not produce fruit. We see this in the natural all the time.
I lived in a house once that had a grape vine growing up one side. It was a very large vine. It had plenty of leaves. It had fully developed branches and bark. It even produced grapes but they could not mature. They would be very small and green. Instead of growing in size and ripening to the dark purple color this species was supposed to have, they just withered away and died. It was a grape vine. It produced grapes but those grapes produced no usable nutrition. What was the problem.
Although the vine grew up the house there were many other plants growing around the bottom. They were weeds of various types. They took some of the nutrition away from the grape vine. As a result, although it was a mature and functioning vine, it could produce no fruit. I was young and had no interest in cultivating the vine. In retrospect I wish I had learned what to do. I love the particular kind of grape the vine would have produced but I never tasted a one because I allowed the ground to remain thorny ground.
It is not realistic to think we will never have seeds that are fleshly and worldly coming into the ground of our hearts. Some things we need to have such as a good education. Everyone needs some kind of entertainment and distraction in life. However, the question is priority and quantity. What priority to we give to the thorns in life. What quantity of “flesh” seeds do we sow compared to the quantity of Bible seeds. Which seeds do we spend the most time and effort cultivating? The answer to that question will tell you whether the fruit of God’s word is flourishing or being choked out by things that bring far less benefit.
Although there are all kinds of thorns that may get into our ground, this parable highlights three in particular. The first are the cares of this world. We live in a world full of pressure. We need many things to survive. We want to see our families prosper and our children have better lives than we did. We want to live lives that are fulfilling and matter. All of these very natural and needful things produce care.
According to Vines Expository Dictionary this word means to draw in different directions, distract,” hence signifies “that which causes this, a care, especially an anxious care.” To me this sounds a great deal like what we today call stress. When things like this overwhelm us, we are overcome by the “cares of this world.”
When this happens, those cares take root in our ground. They begin to produce plants of worry and fear. These fear and worry plants tend to take the life from the plants produced by the seeds of the Word of God. If we are not careful, we will have “Word” plants ready to produce, but they will not because the life has been robbed from them by the “cares of this world.”
What should we do about this? One thing that will not help is for us to feel condemned because we have cares. Everyone has cares. We all worry at times. That is just a natural byproduct of life. However, there is a solution. Jesus gives us some insights in Matthew 6.
Matthew 6:31-34 (NKJV) 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
When the cares of this world produce plants that choke out the life of the Word of God, the solution is to turn right back to it! The Word has the power to replace the fear and worry plants with plants grounded in the love and care God has for us. Meditate on this scripture. The more you realize that God loves you and knows what you need, the more you will see the “care and worry” plants wither and fade away. As that happens, the seeds of life in God’s word will produce the abundant life Jesus wants for us all to enjoy.
We will look at the other two types of thorny ground the next time. For now, let the words from Matthew 6 sink in. Look a few versus back in this chapter and you will find that worry does not Work. Faith in God does work. You do not have to carry the “cares of this world.” Give them to Jesus. He will help you walk above them and bring real help to you for the real problems you face.