Luke 8:7, 14 “Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants….The seed that fell among the thorns stand for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature.”
Nobody I know makes it their goal in life to live in poverty. But historically God’s people have not handled prosperity very well. It tends to corrupt more than it blesses. That is Jesus’ picture here.
The problem is that “prosperity” too easily transforms into “worldliness.” If we could accept that the material world in which we live is all headed for the ash heap–there is no saving anything here, only applying a few band aids and fixes to keep it going a little longer; if we could be content with what we have been given and stop obsessing about having more; if we could see things mostly as tools to serve people and share the gospel with them; if we could trust God’s promise to take care of every need; if we cared more about a real heaven to come than an artificial one we try to build on earth; then prosperity would present no particular temptation.
Then we would worry less about who gets elected, and how my retirement funds are doing, and where the unemployment rate stands today, and whether the polar ice cap is melting, and whether they are coming to take away my guns, and which news is fake and which news is real, and whether I am getting my fair share. And we would go and live our faith. We would go to work and do our job faithfully. We would love our neighbor, no matter how he looks or thinks. We would be good stewards of the things God has given us to manage. We would speak up for those who need someone to speak up for them. We would raise our families to know that Jesus is the best thing there is, and we would tell our friends, and we would dig deep so that people all over the world could know it, too. We wouldn’t worry. We wouldn’t obsess. We wouldn’t hoard. We would believe. And then we would go and live.
But as powerful as God’s word is, faith is “choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures,” and if we will not let these things go, we will not mature. For all our scurrying around trying to build our little utopia right here on earth, we will be of little use to God or man. We can only pray that the worldly distractions do not strangle our faith all the way to death.
Years ago I remember reading about a diet pill that expanded in your stomach to give you the feeling of being full. The idea was that then you would not eat so much, and you could lose weight. Life’s “worries, riches, and pleasures” fill up our lives, and our souls, so that we feel full, and there is not so much room for the thing we really need: God’s word of grace. If you ate today, and have a roof over your head and clothes on your back, you have enough. “You are worried and upset about many things,” Jesus once told his friend Martha, “but only one thing is needed.” That one thing is listening to what Jesus says. Hear about how much he loves you, how he forgives all yours sins, how he died to save you, how he will raise you to life someday, over and over again. Then the good crop of Christian faith and life can crowd out the world’s distractions again, and we will live.