I recently listened to a sermon about the New Testament story of the four soils and the sower. I imagine you’ve heard the parable from Matthew 13 before: the Sower (Christ/disciples of Christ) goes out to sow seed (the Good News of Jesus Christ), and the seed falls on four types of soil (the conditions of the human heart). The first type of soil is hard and impenetrable. The second is shallow with bedrock too close to the surface. The seed sown into the third soil is interspersed with other plants—mostly briers and thistles. And the fourth type of soil is fertile, which has the potential to produce a huge harvest.
Although every type of soil has pertinent application to our lives, I was particularly interested in the third type of soil as I listened to the sermon preached. Matthew 13:7 says, “Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.” And Jesus’ subsequent explanation of the parable to His disciples gives us more information: “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” (v. 22).
The third type of soil is essentially a hotbed of competition for love and loyalty. I imagine when the Good News is first planted in this type of heart, it is received joyfully. But by the time the young plant should be maturing, the thorns and briers have grown up as well. These thorns and briers are desires for the things of this world, such as materialism, pride, or simply distractions. And the competition for priority heightens in the heart of a believer. By the laws of nature, the most aggressive plant – the plant that is fed the most – will assuredly win.
If we allow our lives to be filled up with worldly cares and concerns, we end up giving too much attention to temporal affections and not enough attention to the eternal. “Cares” can be anything that attracts our attention and draws us away from focusing on our eternal purpose. The satisfying things in life, the exciting moments, the disappointments, and the painful experiences can all take root as competition in our hearts. It’s admittedly challenging to remain unattached to this world we live in. But our calling is to aggressively uproot those cares that compete for our affections and continually turn our hearts to God.