Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful (Mark 4:18-19).

Is something choking your spiritual life?

In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus outlined four different scenarios of seed planting. Some seed fell on a pathway where it was trampled and the birds ate it. Other seed landed on rocky, dry ground. Still other seed settled among thorns that eventually choked the seed from growing. Lastly, some seed fell on good soil where it grew and produced the intended harvest.

The seed represents the Word of God that everyone hears. The type of soil represents four distinct categories of people. The first category is those who have hardened hearts and God’s Word has no effect. The second category signifies those who initially receive God’s Word, but have no depth….so the seed eventually fades. The fourth group hears the Word of God and allows it to penetrate their hearts—their lives exhibit the “fruit” of God’s Word.

Then there’s that third group. When they initially hear God’s Word, they accept it, yet it gets strangled by the thorns of life. Jesus said these people remain unchanged by God’s Word because their focus and priorities are on worldly distractions, the delusion of wealth, and a deep seeded desire for other things.

When I consider each group, I don’t have a hard heart and I usually don’t resist the Holy Spirit’s “moisture” in my life. And the fourth group is the goal for spiritual maturity—I should want God’s Word to penetrate my heart so deeply it transforms me as I live in obedience to God. But the third, thorny group is where I pause for self-reflection: If I am not bearing the fruit of Christlikeness or demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, I must ask, “What’s choking me?” To help answer this question, Jesus offered three major areas that choke out His Word.

The Distractions of Life

Wow, this one is huge. Many things can be included in this category. I can worry or get distracted about my job, my health, my children, the future, the economy, or my retirement. Will I end up in a convalescent home? Which of my organs will fail first? What if we go to war? What if Social Security collapses? What if my house burns down? What if my friends believe the crazy gossip about me? What if, what if, what if… Can you see how much time worry consumes? When we freeze our minds on the faithless, shifting sands of “what if,” our lives collapse when the storms arrive. God calls us to resist all such distractions and fix our eyes on Jesus.

The Delusion of Wealth

Jesus didn’t say money or even the pursuit of money was bad. Actually, it’s “the love of money” (I Timothy 6:10) that can choke out God’s Word. When my all-consuming goal is to accumulate wealth, or even depend on money as the source of my trust and happiness, I choke out God’s Word. Additionally, I remain deluded that more money is the answer to my problems. Until I understand that money is a resource that God controls, my delusional pursuit will reduce the impact of God’s Word on my life. God calls us to be good stewards of the resources He entrusts to us, while depending on Him to meet our needs.

The Desires for Other Things

The word “desires” implies uncontrolled passions or lusts. “Other things” includes anything other than the Word of God. Jesus said those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be completely satisfied (Matthew 5:6). He later added, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added (Matthew 6:33). When I prioritize “other things,” they do not satisfy. Yet, when my passionate desire is for God, His Word, and His coming kingdom, He gives me what I need to be completely satisfied and fruitful for Him. God calls us to pull up these thorny weeds and become a fruitful harvest for God.

Here’s to a thornless, fruitful harvest!