In Mark’s account of the Parable of the sower, the emphasis – as in the other accounts, seems to be on the “soil” not so much the “word.” That may indeed be the key to interpreting the parable. However, when one focuses on the soil there is a tendency to lose sight of the response to the word. Responses that are not always flattering to the impact of the word, but nonetheless are accurate descriptions of types of responses to the word. To put it another way, the word does not always have the impact we would hope. Like it or not, some folks are going to walk away for one reason or another. It’s simply a fact. However, that is not my focus.
What appeared interesting to me is the group who “hear the word 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 (Mk 4:19 ESV).” The primary emphasis, at least for me, being desires for other things.
What are these other things if not “cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches?” It seems those two factors could encompass most of what distract and disengage us from the word. What else is there in a person’s life that could literally strangle the effectiveness of the word? Then I began to think on my own life and look at times when I was so distracted by other things that my spiritual life took a backseat. It was not an issue of money or culture wars, it was an issue of passions. NO – not sexual passions, rather passionate pursuits.
I’m rather myopic when it comes to outside pursuits. That’s part of my nature, it’s who I am. Over the years I could name a myriad of interests that, in some sense, choked the life out of me spiritually. I become so consumed with something that nothing else really matters. For example, when I started racing bikes, nothing else mattered. I worked out three days a week at the gym, trained three days at home and rode every day including weekends. Being in the saddle was all that mattered. It was something I was good at and something that brought me a deep sense of self worth. I invested thousands in bicycles, training equipment, personal trainers, and the list goes on. For me, it was indeed an example of “other things” that choked my interest and desire for spiritual things. I might add, when I was teaching Bible studies at our local church, I had the same passion. It too, in a very real sense, was choking the word but in a different way. I could go on and name other pursuits; golf, motorcycles, cars, softball, business pursuits, writing, etc., all taking a strangle hold on my life in one form or another.
Learning this, my tendency toward passionate pursuits, has helped me understand some of the “why” when I do certain things. It has also helped me to understand, going in, that a particular area – regardless of how good it is – can handicap me in other areas. So I’ve learned to try and temper new pursuits and force my self to keep a certain balance. It does not always work, but at least I am cognizant of it and realize the potential for damage to my spiritual life. It is indeed a constant struggle.
Yes, “cares of the world”, “desire for riches” bring their own levels of baggage. However, for me, it is often the “desires for other things” that trip me up and begin choking the life out of my spiritual self, rendering me unfruitful. And God does not appreciate the unfruitful (John 15).