How Things Go Wrong

We get distracted from the kingdom perspective.

Matthew 13:3–8, 18–23 (ESV)

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” …

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The rocky ground and the thorns are distractions! Tribulation or persecution are on one end of the distraction spectrum, cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches on the other. They pretty much cover the whole range.

And you can be just as distracted by riches as by trials. That’s why Jesus said so many things about the difficulties with saving the rich (e.g., Matthew 19:23–24, Luke 6:24, Luke 18:18–25).

But why is Jesus teaching this? What are we supposed to learn? How can this help us be better disciples?

Is this a guide to help us understand what happens to others? Or to understand what’s happening to us?

I think it’s about us. I know I’ve been different soils at different times. That’s important.

This parable prepares us by teaching how different distractions are dangerous in different ways.

Tribulation and persecution are frontal assaults on faith. Without deep roots, we get distracted, panic, and fail. That’s why Jesus warned us over and over to prepare for persecution. Be ready to stand your ground.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” — Matthew 5:11 (ESV)

The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches are different. They “choke” the word, leading to a lack of fruitfulness. Those types of distraction will suck the oxygen out of your faith and your ministry.

Distraction isn’t a single enemy; it’s a class of enemies.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.