“18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:18–19 ESV).
While this passage describes why some unbelievers never believe, it can be applied to believers who struggle to bear fruit because they struggle with these same thorns. Let’s examine the three thorns identified above.1
The Cares of the World: A “care” is a “worry” or “anxiety” and is related to whatever produces such a reaction. A busy schedule, grass to mow, a car to fix, a house to maintain, ―these cares of the world are not necessarily sinful. However, we carelessly increase these cares or care for them so much that we care more for them than how the Word is bearing fruit in our lives. Remember that these cares can choke the growth of the Word in your life. Care for what is necessary, and make sure that your chief care is not of this world―taking time to let God’s Word bear fruit in your life.
The Deceitfulness of Riches: If we are not careful, we can easily orient our lives towards the deceitfulness of riches. Excessive overtime, a side business, a second job, obsessively watching the stock market―we think we’ll have an edge or get ahead of the game with our money. In reality, riches are fleeting, and consuming ourselves with these activities robs us of letting God’s Word bear fruit in our lives.
The Desires for Other Things: The desires for other things are desires for things extra that are not necessary to life. “Cottages, boats, campers, time-shares, real estate, snowmobiles, new cares, new houses, new computers, new iStuff, new video games, new makeup, new DVDs, new downloads” are some examples.2 While these things are not inherently sinful and can be wisely managed, our desire for others things can move us to work for them, get them, and maintain them, taking away from the greater priority of tending the soil of our hearts so that God’s Word will bear fruit in our lives.
John Calvin exhorts, “Each of us ought to endeavor to tear the thorns out of his heart, if we do not choose that the word of God should be choked; for there is not one of us whose heart is not filled with a vast quantify, and, as I may say, a thick forest, of thorns” (emphases original).3
Be mindful of your thorns and tear them out. Order your life around what is most important. Set priorities and stick to them. Say no to the unnecessary, even when you’ve been saying yes for some time. Habits are hard to break, but fruit is hard to grow. Tend the soil of your heart and tear away what robs you from bearing fruit for God.
- This passage was brought to mind as I read through Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003). Anyone seeking to free up their schedule for better “fruit-bearing” would do well to read this book. He discusses this passage on pp. 28–30. [↩]
- DeYoung Crazy Busy, 29–30. [↩]
- John Calvin, Harmony of the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 116. DeYoung cites this quote by Calvin in part in his discussion as well. [↩]