In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains the final two types of soil. Take a moment to read Mark 4:18-20:
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. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:18-20)
Though it doesn’t actually produce fruit, the seed among thorns is the only type to flourish and grow. The problem is that its growth is quickly halted by “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things.” We might say that personal growth depends on the object of our worship. Why is it so tempting to allow things like career, relationships, etc. to have an influence in our lives?
Our world often speaks a conflicting message. On the one hand, we’re told that personal “growth” is about being “true to yourself.” On the other hand, we’re constantly bombarded by the message of self-improvement. But authenticity can never thrive in a world that pushes us not to find ourselves, but to create ourselves by buying the “right” products, having the “right” job, or working on better relationships. The result? True growth becomes stifled, because the standards of measuring our growth are constantly-moving targets.
The gospel says that we can be authentic by recognizing the magnitude of our sin before God, but embracing the magnitude of his love in return. Yes, consumerism brings an immediacy—we feel better after a little “retail therapy,” or if we can experience the temporary satisfaction of a relationship.
God’s way is different, and it is far from immediate. You don’t need to be a farmer to recognize that a crop yield of “a hundredfold” is a staggering crop yield. What was Jesus saying? That to receive the word EXCLUSIVELY means flourishing and fruitfulness—but it doesn’t happen all at once.
Jesus’ kingdom—that is, the rule and reign of God on earth—is both a present reality as well as a future hope. Yes, today seems difficult. But tomorrow looks beautiful. The struggles we endure here are temporary; God’s kingdom will be eternal. And so we serve God’s kingdom as it is presently expressed in Christian community and witness, and we wait for Christ’s return when God’s kingdom will be permanently established for all time.
Yes, the world seems a bleak place. But God’s kingdom shines all the brighter. In a recent blog post, my friend Jared Wilson speaks of the persecution and hardship that Christians are experiencing around the globe. “Cheer up,” he reminds us. “The worse they can do is kill us. And we all know what God does with dead stuff.”