The worries of this life,
the deceitfulness of wealth,
and the desires for other things.
The above are referenced in a parable that our Lord taught by the Sea of Galilee. The reference is found in Mark 4:18. “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” The Lord used the illustration of thorns choking the seed to show how worries, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things choke the seed in our lives. As thorns compete for the necessary soil nutrients, water and sunlight that are crucial for the development of grain, so do the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things compete for that which is necessary in our lives for fruitfulness to occur. All of these decrease the margin we need in our lives in order to be fruitful. Margin has been described as the difference between our load and our limit. These three deplete the resources we need to be fruitful by increasing the demands on our emotional margin, our time margin, and our financial margin.
The worries of this life are inevitable. Some are daily, while others are periodic. They include the predictable as well as the unpredictable. The worries are for ourselves, as well as for others. They include physical needs as well as spiritual concerns for ourselves and others. It is all too easy to allow these matters to dominate our thinking and deplete our emotional margin. These all require our attention and we should think carefully about how to deal with them. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, however, that although we should “use” our own understanding, we should not “rely,” that is, place our dependence on our own understanding. The source of our dependence is described in Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is in the daily bringing of all our worries to the Lord that we are enabled to have His peace guard our hearts and our minds. Only then will we have the emotional margin necessary for fruitfulness in our lives.
Wealth may be deceitful. It deceives us when we place our trust in wealth, and consequently give our lives in exchange for its accumulation. Psalm 62:10 tells us “though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.” We are also told “don’t wear yourselves out to get rich.” We are controlled by our desires. If we desire wealth above all else, we are controlled by that which is necessary for its accumulation. It consequently consumes our time to produce it, leaving no margin in our lives to have an impact on the lives of others. I met with a man years ago who desired to have a fruitful ministry with others. Unfortunately, he had a more compelling desire which was to accumulate wealth through his work. This led to many trips throughout the state in business ventures, the majority of which were successful financially. He retired a wealthy man. No one, to my knowledge, however, obtained any spiritual benefit from his life. The deceitfulness of wealth choked the word in his life. In Matthew 6:19-34, our Lord deals with the necessary things in life as well as that which would be considered wealth. In regard to wealth, He says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In regard to necessary things, He says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.” I have certainly found this verse to be true in my medical practice for over forty years. I benefitted from the Lord’s direction early in my practice to schedule daily time with Him, as well as with others to whom He would have me minister. Although this decision left several hours less daily for the practice as compared to my partners, the Lord used the available time to help me be more efficient and enable me to carry my share of the partnership responsibilities. By seeking Him and His kingdom first, I was able to maintain margin in my life for others.
The desires for other things is also likened to thorns which choke our lives and prevent fruitfulness. The Lord warns that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” One way it chokes us is by diminishing financial margin. I have known individuals and couples whose lives were characterized by “things.” These included unnecessary items or items of luxury they could not afford. Their lives were consumed by a debt burden which took years from which to recover. They had no financial margin from which to help sustain any fruitful ministry. In addition, the debt burden eroded emotional margin as well as the margin of time, requiring a second job in some cases to get out of debt. The scriptures advise us to replace this “covetousness” with “contentment.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
It is the margin in our lives which gives us the emotional energy, the time and the finances with which to make an impact in the lives of others. This margin is challenged daily by the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things. As I write these words, I am supremely conscious of the struggles in my own life to maintain margin in these three areas. I do not think there will ever be a time in our lives when we will not need to do battle with these three in some form. In I Corinthians 1:9, God states that He has called us into fellowship with Christ Jesus our Lord. It is in fellowship with Him that His resources will be made available to us to meet our responsibilities. It is also true that, in fellowship with Him, our resources of energy, time and finances are made available to Him to meet His responsibilities. As we maintain fellowship with our Lord we can depend upon Him to guard our lives from these “thorns” which threaten to choke our fruitfulness and that our lives will be like those described in Mark 4:20. “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.”