Hello and thank you taking the time to read or listen to this podcast. My name’s Andrew Devis and in these podcasts I hope to be able to share some of the things I’ve learnt as I’ve read my Bible and thought and prayed through what I’ve been reading. I don’t claim to be a theological expert, just someone who’s found some treasure I want to share – with the hope that maybe you’ll find these thoughts helpful as well.
To start with, I though I’d simply go from where I’ve been reading in Matthew and comment on things that seemed to stick out for me.
I’ve just been reading the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 – you probably remember this as the parable Jesus told about seed being sown and landing on various types of soil including on the path, on rocky soil, on thorny/weedy soil and on good soil. Well, as Jesus explains later, the ‘seed’ is the word about Him and the various types of soil represent the state of the heart of the person who hears it.
Anyway, when I came across verse 22 I found myself stopping and thinking how much of a problem this is in the western church today. Verse 22 reads in the New RSV – ‘As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.’ Notice that, ‘the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word,’ making it unfruitful.
As we read this, it’s worth noticing how, in Matthew, Jesus’ teaching tends to point back to the values of His Kingdom given in ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ in Matthew 5, 6 & 7, and so to realise that this problem of the weedy or thorny soil in Matthew 13 is looking back at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew chapter 6 about our focus and worry. Because, if the cares of the world and the lure of wealth are stopping the word of God taking deep fruitful root in our lives, the problem is our focus – where we’re looking, or what we’re choosing to ‘look to’ (as in ‘trust’) to deal with our problems.
And I think that the two issues Jesus mentions – ‘the cares of the world’ and the ‘lure of wealth’ both show a wrong focus and have the same root problem in that they’re allowing the values of our culture to shape our attitude to the issues we face as we live our daily lives.
In some ways, we could say that as Christians there’re two cultures that are demanding our loyalty. The first and most important is the ‘culture of Biblical Christianity’ or to put it another way, living a life that’s in line with the teaching of the Bible. However, there’s another culture or value system that impacts us very heavily and which at times we don’t even notice – and that’s the value system we grew up with, the culture we live in every day and absorb without really every questioning it. On the whole, a great part of that culture isn’t really anti-biblical – but some of it is and that’s where we have a problem if we don’t realise what’s going on. Because, that deficient part of our culture and value system tells us that we have the resources or we can get the resources to solve the problem without the need for God. If we work at it hard enough, worry at it enough, put enough time and effort into it – we can be the solution to our own problem.
Maybe it’s a behaviour we picked up from our parents without even realising it: that they were very self-sufficient in the way they lived their lives. Or, maybe, whenever a problem came along the way they faced it was by worrying and panicking and getting low or even depressed about it. And without even realising, we learned to respond the same way to problems when they came along and so we find ourself captive to worry and anxiety and our witness and life has become powerless and unfruitful.
But then, there’s biblical culture – there’s looking to Jesus and trusting His promises and His words. But that takes a lot of doing – not least because generally speaking not many people live that way and it can be hard to do something different to what everyone else is doing.
But if we want to be fruitful, then we need to ask ourselves what we really believe? And, if we can really trust Jesus with the issues we face? Does He really have the power and the will to help us in our times of trouble? Can we really leave our anxieties with Him? The answers we give to those questions will determine what type of ‘soil’ we are … full of thorns and weeds or good soil, ready to produce a harvest.
Back in ‘The Sermon on the Mount’, Jesus addressed this issue in chapter 6 & verses 22 & 23 where He says this: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Now, while that sounds a little hard to grasp, what Jesus is saying is simply this – it matters where our focus is! If we’re focussed on Him, then every part of our life experience will be touched by that relationship. Light, as in blessing, will touch every part. As He goes on to say later in verse 33, when we get our focus right – on His Kingdom and His righteousness – then He’s going to meet all our needs, so there’s no need to worry. BUT, if we refuse to focus on Him and allow ourselves instead to focus on the problem and on our way of solving it, then we’re cutting Jesus out of the picture. We’ve stopped looking at the light that filled our whole life experience with His blessing and, instead, we’re looking at darkness full square and so no light can fill our lives. We’ll stumble about in darkness and no doubt darkness will characterise and touch every part of our life experience and interactions with others.
So the issue is focus. It’s looking to Jesus and believing Him and His promises – otherwise, by looking to our own solutions, we’ll be so full of darkness that we can never produce anything worthy of His Kingdom.
And briefly, ‘the lure of wealth’? Well, the issues are the same except it’s worth pointing out that the lure of wealth doesn’t mean you have any wealth – we can be very poor and still be on the hook of the lure of wealth, always wanting wealth and somehow believing that it will be our ‘saviour’ and solve all our problems.
So again, it’s focus – do we trust Jesus that He has the power to keep His promises and look after us come what may? Or, will we decide that Jesus can’t be trusted and so look away from Him in the hope of finding our own solution – be that seeking wealth or fame or worrying at problems and seeking to find the strength and energy in ourselves to solve them? If so, then the weeds and thorns will continue to choke any fruitfulness out of our lives and our lives will continue to be filled with darkness. And, we’ll miss out on so much joy, peace and grace!
So, where’s your focus?
© Copyright Andrew Devis – 15th December 2014 – All Rights Reserved