What Jesus is talking about here is not just desire. It’s a Greek word with epi at the beginning which is stronger than desire. It means craving; that attitude of not being able to live without something. You can see little children with this attitude; ‘I want it and I must have it now’. We can be like that; ‘if I don’t get that I can’t get him/her/this job/this house’. A craving can become so important to us that it chokes the word. A word that could change us, free us, make us whole, peaceful, secure and happy in God brings no fruit to maturity because we’re craving other things.
So what are these things that compete with the promises God’s made and choke the word? They’re not gross evils, they’re simple phrases. The first is the worries of this world.
And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark4:18-19)
This isn’t to say there won’t be things to worry about. Paul says ‘by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving’. This isn’t praying about it for five minutes and remaining as worried as you were when you started. Why pray when you can worry!? We need our praying to break the power of our worries. With thanksgiving we come to God and we really believe. It’s not the power of positive thinking, it’s receiving a word. Discipleship is not a how to do it yourself job. There is power in the word of God. It’s our responsibility to make sure that other stuff does not affect the power of a word that can change us. Are we giving it space? Are we letting it speak? Are we letting it have the impact it can have?
Interpreting the parable of the sower as simply about coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus is missing its full significance. The familiarity of the story can cause you to switch off to an interpretation that is relevant to both the new and the experienced Christian. In part 4 of this series, we explore the thorny ground.
Notice the phrase ‘deceitfulness’ because riches don’t actually have the answer. Thinking it’s ok because the money’s in the bank isn’t so good when the bank collapses. Mammon is deceitful. It makes promises it can’t keep.
Jesus repeatedly said, ‘don’t take anxious thought’. We have to see this as a command. The Bible says ‘don’t steal’, so most of us don’t. It says ‘don’t worry’. Do most of us not worry? We have to be ruthless with ourselves. Paul says ‘be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). That’s supernatural seed that comes into a world full of anxieties and tensions.
Now Jesus describes the soil among the thorns or weeds. This represents those who hear and understand teaching about the kingdom. However, they are distracted by worldly things. That includes wealth and ultimately superficial concerns. Their potential growth loses out in a battle against materialism and the stress of everyday life. Just as a weed steals nutrients from the soil and the light from the sun, those cares steal away the needed time and attention to commit to the Messiah. The plant never grows to maturity, so it never multiplies into more seeds of grain.
It's crucial to remember that Jesus' most immediate point is about how the nation of Israel will respond to His teaching (Matthew 13:10–17). This parable is not meant as a spectrum from "lost" to "saved," though there are useful parallels with how people respond to the gospel.
The disciples are being taught the deeper meaning behind the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1–9). Jesus spoke of a seed-thrower whose seed falls on various kinds of soil as he plants a field. The seed that falls on the hardpacked dirt of the path is like the word of the kingdom of heaven that is not understood by those who hear it (Matthew 13:5–6, 19). The rocky soil represents those who seem to receive the word at first, but have no depth. Hard circumstances and persecution cause them to fall away (Matthew 13:5–6, 20–21).
This soil represents the experience most familiar to people living in times of general prosperity. Wealth is deceitful in several ways. One is the nagging pressure to always have "more." Another is that money is so essential that it must be borrowed before it is earned.
Matthew 13:22, CSB: “Now the one sown among the thorns–this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Matthew 13:22, NLT: “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.”
Matthew 13:22, NASB: “And the one sown with seed among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, and the anxiety of theworld and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and itbecomes unfruitful.”