Jesus tells the story of the sower who sowed his seeds in four places: on a path, on rocky ground, among thorns, and on good soil. The thorny place intrigues me the most because it “is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”1 These might be church-going people! The ones who hear sermons, who read their Bibles, who, when asked, would say they are Christians. They hear the Word of God and it takes root. And branches sprout but as fruit begins to grow, the thorns “grew up and choked them.”2 And they do not understand why this is so. They may, in fact, look at others whose lives are fruitful and wonder why God does not bless them as well! 😠
It’s a good thing to wonder about and a good question to ask: Why do some Christians have fruit and others have thorns? 🤔 The answer is twofold: 1) fruitful Christians are better at not allowing “the cares of the world” to affect them. What are those “cares”? Life. You know, the stuff we all do each day. It is easy to become consumed with life. All those “cares” subtly encroach into our prayer time and our Bible study time. The “cares of the world” are all the little things we must do to keep our family intact. And 2) fruitful Christians are generally not fooled by “the deceitfulness of riches.” Oftentimes “the cares of the world” are directly attached to “the deceitfulness of riches.” Those people are busy working in order to pay for all the things they are taking care of!
But I think the real thing that separates the fruitful Christian from the unfruitful one is this: the unfruitful Christian “hears the word.” The fruitful Christian “hears the word and understands it.”3 Understanding the Word of God is vastly different than just hearing it. How do we acquire understanding? Various ways. But the best way is to study God’s Word. Or to put it like the psalter: “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding . . .”4 God will give us understanding when we are willing to be taught.
I find it quite interesting that this portion of Psalm 119 discusses the very things that Jesus was referring to in his parable. Read this: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!”5 In other words, Don’t let me be deceived by riches! And then: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”6 In other words, Don’t let the cares of the world distract me!
But I think the heart of the message is this: “Give me understanding that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.”7 Our “whole heart.” That is another area of life that unfruitful people need to address. When we do things half-heartedly, we are doing so because we are so distracted by “the cares of the world”! We are often multitasking. Few things get our whole attention, our “whole heart.” It’s a problem. But when God gives us understanding of his ways, we will see the fruit from our labors and will want to live for him more and more. We will understand that his “rules are good.”8 and say: “Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!”9
Too much of our time is devoted to earthly things, things that do not last, things that give us temporary pleasure. Many of these things are not bad; in fact, some of them are quite fun! God certainly wants us to enjoy our life, but first we need to get first things first! God is mostly concerned with most important things—eternal things. When that part of our life is in order, everything else seems to fall into perspective. It is so true that when we “seek first the kingdom of God and all his righteousness,”10 everything else falls in its proper place.
To understand God’s Word is to meditate on it, study it, and then test it out. The person who does that “bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another case sixty, and in another thirty.”4 People who understand God’s Word are fruitful. So, to conclude: “Delight yourselves in the law of the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in him and he will act.”11 I am tempted to explain this passage to you, but you know what? You need to do that yourself. Study this one. 🤓 And then do what it says. Then you will be fruitful. And you will understand.
1Matthew 13:22 2Matthew 13:7 3Matthew 13:23 4Psalm 119:33-34 5Psalm 119:36 6Psalm 119:37 7Psalm 119:34 8Psalm 119:39 9Psalm 119:40 10Matthew 6:33 11Psalm 37:4