What Are The Weeds in Our Lives That Choke the Word of God?
By Richard Allen – October 16, 2023
As we are working our way through the Parable of the Soils, it’s important that we stop and ask relevant questions along the way. One of the questions that should pique our interest is: “What exactly does Choking the Word look like?” Is Choking the Word something that we might identify and prevent? If so, that would be of real value for us to know as Christians. It should also be clear when Jesus explains The Parable of the Soils, He is not addressing the multitudes, trying to admonish them to do something. In fact, the only admonition that we hear from Jesus’ lips in the Parable of the Soils is: “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 13:9), to which the Apostles immediately respond: “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matthew 13:10).
We should be able to see from the Apostles’ response that Jesus was not admonishing unbelievers on how to hear, nor was He saying: “This is what you need to do to be better hearers” – and the Apostles knew it! As hard as this is to grasp, Jesus was not giving commands to unbelievers on “what to do or not do,” rather, He is describing the Kingdom to those, to whom it had been given, to both hear and see. Those men and women take Jesus’ preaching on Choking the Word to heart! As we’ve studied these past weeks, having a “hard and unreceptive heart” or a “shallow heart” or even a “divided heart preoccupied with many worldly desires and cares” COMES NATURAL TO ALL OF MANKIND! But those to whom it has been given, Jesus’ Words here cut like a knife, and they will take His Word to heart!
While the Parable of the Soils is not a portion of Scripture that calls unbelieving men and women to do something to get saved, some have turned the Parable of the Soils into a call to repent or make changes in your life that will ensure your eternal outcome. And a few preachers have actually taught that Jesus is saying: “Make the Soil of your heart fertile, clear away the rocks and weeds and you’ll be able to produce a fruitful harvest.” This might be a noble idea, but it’s not clear from the context. Unless I’m missing something, the Parable of the Soils is describing “What” different types of Soils are, NOT CALLING UNBELIEVERS TO MAKE THEIR HEARTS BETTER BY MORAL REFORMATION! That would be Works and not Faith! I call this: “The Bootstrap Gospel,” that is, “Pick yourself up by your Bootstraps and Do Right” and then God will save you. Or as others have said: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” Don’t get me wrong, the New Testament Scriptures do admonish us to Ask, Seek, Knock, Take Up Our Cross, Follow and Endure, as well as other acts of Repentance. But that’s not exactly what Jesus is teaching here in the Parable of the Soils!
If Jesus were trying to teach us: “Here’s how to prepare your heart,” or, “Here’s how to give the Word of God full access to your heart” – Jesus would have given us clear direction. Remember, as a prophet and teacher Jesus was not known for pulling His punches, or holding back hard messages. Jesus told His hearers exactly how it was - even if His Words or His message was unpopular. It’s important to remember that as His Children, we have been given “ears to hear and eyes to see.” To those who are not His Children, Jesus gives the unvarnished truth, often in obscure or symbolic language as in The Parable of the Soils. While true, it’s still for our edification to grasp what Choking the Word entails. God still admonishes us by every passage of Scripture so we might press on into the Kingdom (Luke 16:14).
Some may hear a hard truth like this from Jesus and be tempted to say to themselves: “OK, if Jesus isn’t telling me to stop choking the word, I’ll just go back to living for the moment, and stop obeying or trying to follow Jesus. To them I say, if that’s how you feel, you might as well not believe. On one occasion as John’s Gospel records (John 6:41-71), a mixed group of Disciples and Professors were offended when they heard Jesus speak hard truths. “Some of them grumbled, turned away and followed Him no more. Jesus then turned to His Disciples (to whom it had been given to hear and see) and asked: ‘Will you also leave?’ To which they answered: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life’ ” (John 6:68). Those who hear and see are not offended at hard truths, but “cleave to Jesus.”
So, let’s examine the hard things Jesus is teaching in this Parable of the Soils by first
observing that Jesus identifies four potential things that are involved in Choking the Word: Matthew 13:22 says that Choking the Word includes the - 1.) “Worries of this life” and 2.) “deceitfulness of wealth.” Mark 4:19 says the same but includes 3.)“the desires for other things.” And finally, Luke 8:14 includes life’s worries, the desire for riches; then tacks on 4.) “pleasures.” All three gospels unapologetically decry “the deceitfulness of wealth, riches and pleasures” to which all Believers should be able to agree! In the New Testament it’s painfully obvious that money and riches have a decaying effect in the life of a Believer. The Apostle Paul admonishes Believers in 1 Timothy 6:17-18 about the dangers of wealth and the “love of money.” But here Jesus provides additional “hard truths” when he identifies: “The worries of this life” as a driving factor in Choking the Word. How can this be? Aren’t we supposed to be concerned about caring for our spouse and / or children? Are we not to be diligent in our work, doing all things “as working for the Lord?” Let me share several passages of Scripture that can help us understand how the cares of this life can Choke the Word. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 7, Paul gives an admonition not to allow even the “good in life” to be the enemy of the “best God has prepared for us in eternity.” Here’s what the Apostle Paul exhorts the Church at Corinth:
“I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:26-31).
The entire seventh Chapter of 1 Corinthians should be read in light of Jesus’ words about “the worries and cares for this life” Choking the Word. Paul tells us that from now on, those who engage in marriage, business, mourning, buying goods and dealing with the world – should do so as if they were not – BECAUSE THE PRESENT FORM OF THIS WORLD IS PASSING AWAY! As I mentioned in a previous Blog, the “Thorny Ground Hearer” is the portion of Soil that gives me the most concern. Who among us is not pressured by the “cares and worries of life?” I especially remember those early years as a young father, working long hours, trying to buy a home and provide for my wife and children. I also remember my wife being a young mother with multiple children, housework, laundry, meals, homework and then both of us still trying to please our spouse. It’s not easy to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, or not allow daily responsibilities to pull us away from reading God’s Word and praying. Who can forget Jesus’ exhortation to Martha, Mary’s sister who was so busy serving Him, she wasn’t taking time to learn from Him. Here’s how Luke records it:
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
This passage makes clear that it’s not just “pursuing wealth, possessions and pleasures” that Choke the Word, it’s also clear from both the Old and New Testaments that “Thou Shalt Not Covet, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, Thou Shalt Not Steal” are sinful behaviors that we’re saved from, and shouldn’t be practicing. And most Christians know that “lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” is not the life God calls His Children to. But serving the Lord dinner in your own home? How could that Choke the Word? Jesus tells us that Martha was “distracted with much serving.” I’m convinced that Martha could have backed it off a level and would still have had time to sit with her sister at Jesus’ feet. All of the serving, working, earning, building and even relationships with our spouse will eventually be done away with. The evil one knows our sin nature and knows that tempting us – even with good things – can work to ensnare us. As long as we take our focus off Jesus, we’ll be Choking the Word so that it produces no fruit.
There is one more passage of Scripture that I believe covers both the “Shallow-Heart-Hearer” and the “Thorny-Heart-Hearer,” it’s Hebrews chapters five and six:
“About this we have much to say, and is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. . . . . . For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 5:11 – 6:8).
The Hebrew believers who were still babies, unskilled in the Word of Righteousness, didn’t have much depth of earth or understanding in the basic teachings of the faith. But the writer doesn’t leave it there, he moves on to those who have completely fallen away. And as he describes them, he says they are fruitless in their profession of Christ. Their faith produces “thorns and thistles," and as I’ve pointed out before, the writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that anyway you cut it, Soil that doesn’t produce fruit is near to being cursed and will be burned in the end. But the writer makes it clear that he was of a better opinion of those to whom he was writing. God’s Children take these exhortations without despairing, confess their unreceptive and cold hearts, and seek God afresh!
Soli Deo Gloria!