In Mark 4, Jesus gets into a boat, sits down and begins teaching a crowd a parable about a sower. The story is about a man who goes around and scatters seed that falls in different places on different types of ground. The outcome of these seeds is different, but there was one outcome in particular that caught my attention more than the others. It’s what happened when Jesus describes the result of the seed that fell among thorns. He says that these thorns grew up and choked out what would’ve been a shock of grain. He later goes on to tell his disciples that the seed sown was the word, and that the thorns are: the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. These three are the killers that keep people from ever blossoming into ripe stalks of grain and becoming true, fruitful followers of God.
The first killer I want to attack is the cares of the world. This is the first thorn Jesus mentions, and that for good reason. In 1 Peter 2, the writer tells us that Christians are classified as aliens and strangers in the world. Believers are to be concerned and caught up with the affairs of a world, just not this present one. The outcome of the seeds sown among thorns shows that the gaze is not toward the city that is to come, but the distractions of this age. The obsession with the glitter of the here and now has caused a preoccupation with things that are passing, not eternal things. Paul calls this getting “entangled in civilian pursuits.” This is what happens when we get too excited about and consumed with created things rather than the Creator. Our pursuits, our cares and our concerns become shallow and we end up with what John Piper would call “a wasted life.”
It seems to be a popular topic of conversation among some Christians to talk about the kingdom of God being right here, right now, which is fine; it’s partly true. But I think it the idea is run with so far that people will say that heaven is “not a place we go to when we die.” I think what we need to remember is that the kingdom is already here, but it’s also not yet. The rule and reign of Christ exists now in the hearts of those who believe, but we’re still in tents, or what Paul would call a “body of death.” He himself said to depart from this world would be a gain for him. And he also states that if it’s only for this life that we have hope in Christ, people should pity us more than anybody else. I believe the proper perspective to hold is found in Colossians 3. We’re told, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” We’re called to put our minds in heaven as our bodies work fervently in a country not our own. Minds above, bodies below. What Jesus warns against in the thorns analogy is minds below, bodies below. The worldly focus has its mind set on all that is passing away. But the call of the Christ-follower is to live like this world is not home. The call is that of a sojourner in a foreign land that lives differently than those around him who do belong to this world. We must pledge allegiance somewhere. It’s either the kingdom of this world or the kingdom of heaven; no dual citizenships. The call to the believer is to hold a temporary visa in this world and citizenship in heaven.
Any attempt to belong to this world, while claiming the name of Christ, will be choked out and prove unfruitful, as Jesus said. Our interests must not, indeed cannot, be divided. No one can serve two masters; no one can belong in two worlds. A.W. Tozer says that for many of us, our problem is that we feel “too much at home in the world.” We don’t feel that holy homesickness, were content with the forms and fashions of this world. They’re enough for us. But this shouldn’t be. The saints of old didn’t have their cares wrapped up in the world….they didn’t care about the cares of this world. They were too busy fastening their gaze on their God, their treasure, who prepared a city for them. They were homeward bound. The scriptures even say that the world was not worthy of them. These pilgrims, aliens and strangers had their faces set like flint toward heaven, and now, they’re Home. May our feet follow in their steps while our eyes are fixed on Jesus, because, “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is it come.”