Treating Faith as a Mere Hobby (Mark 4)

IMG_1148Weeds are a curse. I mean really, they are. In the first breath of God’s curse upon man because of Adam’s sin, God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3:17-18)

I’ve often when pulling weeds in a garden said aloud into the air, “Oh Adam, how could you do this to us?”  Of course, I’ve heard that women in childbirth have had some choice words for Eve as well!

The third type of soil that Jesus spoke of in his parable was that filled with weed seed as well as good seed. From Mark 4:7 …

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 

Dealing with weeds growing with grain is a persistent agricultural problem as can be seen everywhere in grain fields right now. As in the picture, we can see the tire tracks of the device called a “high boy sprayer” – those tractors with the giant, thin wheels and long arms … spraying both weed killer and fertilizer. I often think sadly about all the grain that is smashed, though I’m assured that the net positives outweigh that negative.

But really, just think about how much more of a difficulty dealing with weeds must have been in the first century world of Jesus and the disciples, a time without chemical treatments.

Jesus gave this interpretation of the third soil (and hence the third type of soul) in verses 18 and 19 … IMG_1151

18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 

This third type of soul is what I have called “the hobbyist.”  I have had lots of seasons of life where I had varied hobbies. At the time I was into them, I would have told you that these were interests that I would have and carry for a lifetime. But many have come and gone. I was into muzzle-loading antique, historic guns for a while and even built a replica. I have not had it out of the closet in 20+ years. I was very into woodworking, and our home is filled with things I built years ago. Now, doing anything like that is a terrible chore.

Other interests I’ve stuck with throughout life … like baseball, family, pursuit of Scriptural knowledge applied to life, writing. What you really value will stay with you and inform your life.

And so it should be about the Word of God. It should not be something that is a seasonal interest or hobby, not something to think about only in terms of if it serves you well at this stage of life.

If we have not been guilty of this ourselves, we have all seen the person who gets very excited about the Lord and his Word, like after some sort of retreat or conference. But over time, the enthusiasm does not stick with them. Other events or people come along to crowd their attention.

Some of the “cares of the world” that take us away from God may be good things in their proper place, but be also out of an appropriate line of priorities. And they can become those things that consume us rather than us consuming them.

Jesus speaks of three items in the passage …

  • “The worries of this life” – making a go of it, financially and relationally. This can become consuming.
  • “the deceitfulness of wealth” – I know that we all find ourselves believing that if we only just had a nice chunk more of financial resources our lives would be so much easier. I’ve often told you about the one little season of my life of living with the wealthy in Texas. And I can report that they really weren’t happier, and they had to spend so much of their time worrying about what to do with it and how to protect it from a dozen dangers.
  • “the desire for other things” – we all have stuff we find interesting that we’re going to get someday or do someday. Diana and I, on the whole, are rather boring people; but we have this interest in returning to Europe to see more of that continent. But we never get around to it, though we could make it the defining thing of our lives, dropping everything else.

Don’t make faith a hobby, merely something you do or use when you really need it like a tool in the garage, or a car you take for a Sunday ride. Being a person of faith, and doing faith with other people (called the church) is a way of life, not a hobby.

But I have seen decades of hobbyists in my various churches, people for whom life is going pretty well right now. Some previous crises have resolved, and coming in and enjoying what goes on around here fits their schedule nicely. Their evaluation of a church – be it this one, or any other one where they’ve given some time here and there – is honestly by the criteria of “what do I get from it, and how does it serve my interests and needs right now?”  The issue is honestly not “how can I serve God here?”

So don’t just be a hobbyist about faith. Don’t just make it a seasonal convenience that can get trumped by other interests … like the summer. Like the old song goes, “Will I see you in September, or lose you to the summer moon above?”

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

2 thoughts on “Treating Faith as a Mere Hobby (Mark 4)

  1. I like that you write these posts after the sermon. Often I will be thinking about a point afterwards but can’t remember the details. I learn even more by reading it!

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