You may have heard of the parable of the sower. If not, or if you want to refresh your memory, here’s one version of it.
3“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
14“…The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4:3-8, 14-20
I’ve always found this parable interesting because it describes various stages of my life. I was like the path when I was young – I just didn’t get it. I thought I did, but I didn’t at all. Then for several years I was like the rocky soil. I would follow God for a few days at a time, and then when things started to get hard – when I decided that I didn’t want to resist temptation and serve others anymore – I would walk away, only to come back after a few months and repeat the cycle. Now? Well, now my life looks most like the thorny soil. I’m not at all happy about that, but I haven’t gotten anywhere trying to fix it.
But back to the parable. I’ve often heard people teach as if the first three types of soil all represent non-saved people, and the last one is the only one that represents a true Christian. But look more closely. Did you notice the distinction that was made? The seeds that fell on the path never got a chance to grow. The seeds in the rocky soil sprouted, but the plants died. The seeds in the thorny soil, however, grew and survived – nowhere does it say that they died. The problem is, even though the plants survived, they didn’t produce any grain.
Think of the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). It’s a similar situation – getting distracted from what matters. Jesus didn’t respond by telling Martha to repent or anything like that. He merely corrected her. He didn’t treat her as a nonbeliever, but as a believer who had slipped up – and isn’t this the same as the parable? Granted, the parable seems to describe a more prolonged situation, but still. Taking all of this into consideration, could it be that the thorny soil is a representation not of someone lost, but of someone saved who has lost their focus? Is it possible to be a Christian who “bears no grain”? Apparently it is.
However, clearly this isn’t what God wants from us. The good soil is held up as an example. That’s what we should be. But sometimes – or if you’re like me, most of the time – that’s not what we are.
Do you ever feel like this? Like you’re struggling along in your life as a Christian, sticking it out, but never really getting anywhere? Like you may not be getting worse, but you’re not getting any better either? Like you’re not really doing anything for God – bearing no grain? I know I do.
If this is the case, maybe it’s time to think about what “thorns” may be causing problems.
Unfortunately, recognizing the “thorns” doesn’t make them go away. For me, school can become a distraction, taking up so much time and energy that I lack the motivation to focus on God. The things I do to have fun and relax can also become “thorns” if I don’t keep the right perspective. A word of caution: When you find yourself putting off spending time with God because it’s no fun, or you do other things instead because they’re more fun, Satan’s getting into your head. I do this repeatedly, and then when I finally relent and go read the Bible or pray or whatever I had not wanted to do, I enjoy it. (Likewise, I find myself getting caught in the same habitual sins over and over again, and they always leave me feeling worse than before, but I never seem to remember that when the next temptation occurs. Odd, how I never seem to learn. But now I’m about to go off on a tangent, so I’ll stop while I still can.) Seriously, do it even if you don’t feel like it; you won’t regret it. That’s actually a pretty good mantra for general life.
Once more I have to realize that this is hard. And there will always be distractions. SO. MANY. DISTRACTIONS. *screams into pillow* Better now. Anyway, I guess we just have to learn to keep things in perspective. We’re on a mission, guys. We can’t afford to get sidetracked.
Now if only I were better at following my own advice.