Thorns that Choke: Empty Pursuits

In Jesus’ parable of the soils, it is the soil that produced thorns which seems to describe my own heart the best, because a plant sprouts and grows in that soil, but the fruitfulness of the plant is choked out by the thorns. Jesus explained to His disciples that the thorns represented the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. In a previous post, I reflected on how the cares of the world choke our fruitfulness, and in this post I will explore how the deceitfulness of riches does the same.

The deceitfulness of riches are all those things which money promises but can’t fulfill. Contentment, pleasure, security, excitement, meaning, intimacy, joy, peace, and so on–those are the things we are ultimately seeking through wealth, but they are the very things that can only be found in Christ. Therefore pursuing them through riches always comes up empty. And that is where money is deceitful–it is always saying “Just a little bit more…” or “If only you had this or could experience that, then life would be great…” But it cannot fulfill those promises.

As with the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches chokes out the Word and blocks fruitfulness simply by filling up our time and energy with what ends up to be empty pursuits. These may not be obviously sinful pursuits; in fact, for some it could be perceived as “just trying to provide for my family” or “just trying to plan responsibly for the future”. But wealth is deceitful, and the line between responsibility and selfish desire is often rather blurry. And thus the thorns creep in and start filling up the soil of our hearts with one presumably innocent pursuit after another.

When Paul warns Timothy about the love of money (I Timothy 6:8-10), he says that “through this craving some have wandered away from the faith…” Wandered. Not run, but wandered. Granted, there may be some who ditch the faith overnight because of the empty pursuits of wealth, but Paul describes what happens most often–we wander. Like a toddler who is enamored by a colorful flower off the path, we wander from one colorful flower to the next, never intending to leave the path, yet realizing eventually that we are far from it.

So perhaps the question for this week is: am I more excited about giving thanks to God on Thursday or on finding the perfect deal on Black Friday? Nothing wrong with shopping on Black Friday (or any other day), but is it filling up the soil of my heart with things that will come up empty?