by Charles R. Swindoll
While reading through Mark's Gospel recently, I was drawn into the scene of chapter 4. You remember, it's that time Jesus sat down in a little boat by the seashore and talked about a farmer who dropped seeds into the dirt. Same seed, different soil, different results. Four to be exact.
Some seeds fell beside the road . . . the birds gobbled them up. A few seeds fell on rocky ground . . . the sun scorched the rootless growth, and they withered and died. Other seeds fell among thorns . . . which choked out the growth so severely there was no crop to harvest. Still other seeds fell into good soil . . . bumper crop. Then Jesus explained each point.
First, He said, the seed represents "the word." I believe we're safe in saying that "the word" refers to truth. God's truth. Second, the different soils represent people's varied responses to that "word." All four "hear," but not all reap a harvest. That's significant. Hearing guarantees nothing. Next, the results are directly related to the condition of the soil . . . not the quality of the seed. If you look closely, you'll see that the first two groups lack roots. Only with the last two groups does Jesus mention fruit.
I think it's obvious that the first two groups of people are without spiritual life. No roots, no fruit, no growth, no change whatsoever. The third group hears, but only the fourth group "hears the word and accepts it," resulting in strong, healthy growth. It's the third group that intrigues me. These people hear everything the fourth group hears. But those truths are not really accepted, allowed to take root, and grow. Instead, the thorns "choke the word and it becomes unfruitful."
Thorns that choke? What are they? Jesus doesn't leave us in the dark. They are "the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things" (Mark 4:19).
The term "worry" is derived from the old German word wurgen, which means "to choke." By extension, the word came to denote "mental strangulation" and, finally, to describe the condition of being harassed with anxiety. Worry begins as a thin stream trickling through our minds. If entertained, it cuts a deeper channel into which other thoughts are drained.
But the third species of thorns is the killer: "the desires for other things." It's the picture of discontentment, the plague of pursuit: pushing, straining, stretching, relentlessly reaching, while our minds become strangled with the lie "enough just isn't enough."
Jesus closed off His brief talk with that familiar line, "He who has ears, let him hear" (Mark 4:9).
When the thorns of life scratch us, we need the pruning shears of the Word.
Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.