“As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14 NRSV)
There is a popular phrase these days that helps us put life in perspective: “That’s a first-world problem!”
For example: “My ice maker won’t make crushed ice.” First world problem! In other places, they don’t have refrigerators, or a consistent source of electrical power that would allow them to keep food from spoiling… assuming they have food. And that fact that we have ice at all means we didn’t have to walk 2 miles to the stream we share with other villagers… and other wildlife! In North America, we have to admit we have it pretty good.
Or do we?
This section of the parable could describe many modern North American Christians. We have riches and pleasures that many will never know. And we’re choking.
Three aspects of this parable fascinate me:
1. Choking. Notice what’s doing the choking: cares, riches, and pleasures. These are good things, right? But a noose made of the finest silk is still a noose! The verse above has Jesus explaining the parable to his Disciples. But go back to the part where Jesus is originally telling the story to the crowd and see how he describes what is causing the choking: “Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it” (Luke 8:7 NRSV).
So is it cares, riches, and pleasures… or thorns? It seems Jesus sees them as the same thing. I guess I should handle these things with care (maybe even with gloves!).
2. The Plant. Notice that the plant is not choked to death. That’s good news, right? It’s still alive! It only gets choked to the point of not being able to produce fruit. Some translations say that the plant never reaches maturity.
Have you ever been hurt by a fellow Christian who acted like a child? As we often say in church leadership circles, someone has to be the adult in the room. (By the way, the adult in the room is not always the Pastor!). Perhaps we should all check our thorns at the door and be intent on growing to maturity.
3. The Fruit. This is the greatest tragedy of all to me. I think in many cases people are content to just be alive. But where’s the fruit? And what fruit are we talking about? Check out this list: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22–23 NRSV).
Are we living without love… without joy…without peace? Could it be those bothersome cares, riches, and pleasures that are to blame?
Sounds like a first-world problem….
How can we put cares, riches, and pleasures in their proper place to allow love, joy, and peace to flourish? Join the conversation by leaving a comment!