This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the Four Gospels* is about Jesus talking about maturing believers, and not being consumed by worries or wealth.
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’ This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands 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. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
You may have read or been taught that this is a kind of missionary Bible verse, but in my reading it looks like something altogether different. Reread it a few times, and I think you will see Jesus explaining that some do not believe Him, and others do. Those that do believe fall into three camps: those on rocky ground, those who fall among thorns, and those on good soil.
The first group are those with shallow beliefs (rocky ground); during difficulty they can’t endure testing (no root), so when life doesn’t work out for them their faith falters.
The second group are those that fall on thorns, the immature. They try to live dualistic lives, consumed by the worries or riches and pleasures; they want it all: Jesus, riches and comforts.
The strange news is that at times we can be like both of these groups. We are like the first example when we have not taken the time to let our roots go deep and difficulties or times of testing happen. We quickly wonder why God is picking on us when we lose a job or go through financial difficulty. We whine and lose faith in God because we thought that to a large extent our faith was about us–about living the good life. At times life may go really well, at least financially. We have a great income, a nice house, a new car, and ample savings, and the 401(k) is accumulating nicely. The verse tells us that we are immature when we are easily consumed by our financial success.
The third group is the one Jesus wants us to be in (those who fall on good soil). He wants us to know that our lives don’t consist of what happens to us, whether it be good or bad. He wants us to succeed in times of testing, either the test of abundance or difficulty. He wants us to have a “noble and good heart,” whose focus is not self-centered, but Christ and Kingdom oriented. When we bury the word (the promises of Jesus) in our heart, then our dependence is on him. Jesus promises that we will all encounter difficulty, and when we do we will persevere in our faith because our eyes are on eternity and not on our present riches or difficulties.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fourteenth post in this series.