July 06, 2015

Among Thorns

Devotion for the Week...

We have a wood furnace to heat our house. Shortly after we installed the furnace, we also bought a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is a sneaky danger because it is colourless, odorless, tasteless and potentially deadly. According to How Stuff Works, carbon monoxide is poisonous to us because it binds more strongly to our hemoglobin than oxygen does. That means that if carbon monoxide is present, it will bind to a person's hemoglobin where oxygen should bind, making it impossible for oxygen to bind there, and eventually the person will suffocate. The oxygen is squeezed out and replaced by the carbon monoxide.

I thought of this when I read one of Jesus' parables which I have read many times before. The parable of the sower goes something like this: a farmer goes out to plant seed. On the way, some falls on the road and gets eaten by birds; some seed falls on the rocks where it has no room to grow roots; some falls among the thorns which choke it out and some falls on good ground where it grows and produces a harvest. The meaning of the parable is relatively simple. The farmer is the person who sows the word of God. The seed on the path is symbolic of the person who hears the word of God but never accepts it. The seed among the rocks is the person who accepts the word of God, but has no depth so he falls away as soon as there is trouble. The seed among the thorns is also a person who hears the word, but they're so worried about the things of this world that the word of God is choked out of their life. The seed on good ground, of course, is the person who accepts the word of God, does their best to live accordingly and so lives a fruitful life.

Whenever I've read the parable before, I've always thought it referred only to those who are hearing the word of God for the first time, those who are hearing that Jesus died to offer them forgiveness for their sins. But this time I considered the application for those of us who are already believers. After all, we hear, or read, the word of God regularly. I was struck especially by the seed that is choked out by the thorns, or weeds. "The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).

The worries of this life...the deceitfulness of wealth.

How much of life are summed up in those two phrases? How often do we not really hear a sermon because we are too busy thinking about meal plans, or company we'll be seeing later in the week, or the clothes our kids need, or the vacation we can't wait to take in a few weeks? Or how often are we more focused on earning/spending/saving our money rather than on how we could be living like Jesus?

It is harder for oxygen to bind to hemoglobin, so we have to take precautions to make sure carbon monoxide doesn't crowd out the oxygen. Unfortunately, it is also harder to live according to God's word. First of all, we have to spend time with His word, focused time and not just time sitting in a church pew not really paying attention to the sermon. Ideally, we should also be reading the Word for ourselves, and that's certainly not always easy. The worries of this life, the stuff that has to get done each day just to keep our households running, can easily take up every moment of our day. If we wait to 'have time' to read the Bible it likely won't happen. We have to make a conscious effort to make time to read the Bible. During the school year, I find this relatively easy because I set my alarm a bit earlier than I need to be up, then spend that extra time reading my Bible. Unfortunately, once summer vacation arrives, that plan goes right out the window because I'm no longer setting an alarm at all. I'm still struggling to find a time that I will stick to consistently.

Then, of course, once we know how God wants us to live, we have to actually follow through and live that way. But that's not always easy either. Living God's way will sometimes mean standing out from the crowd and acting differently. Are we willing to do that, or are we more worried about fitting in?

Seeds planted among thorns won't grow well unless the farmer pulls up the thorns. Carbon monoxide will beat out oxygen every time. In the same way, we have to be diligent about removing those things that would crowd out the Word of God.

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