The Parable of the 4 Soils (Thorny Soil)
If you have not read the previous posts related to the parable of the 4 soils, it would be very helpful to do so. Each posts builds on the information presented in the previous ones.
As I’ve stated in each of the other posts, the 4 soils represent 4 conditions of the human heart and how each one responds to the Gospel message. So far, we’ve talked about the hard soil (those who do not understand the Gospel), and the rocky soil (those who do not understand the costs of following Christ). Let’s move on to the third soil type.
Soil Three: Some people are captivated by another gospel (v.7, 18-19):
Soil Three (Verse 7): “Others fell among thornbushes, and the thornbushes came up and choked them, and they didn’t produce anything.”
The Explanation of Soil Three (Verses 18-19): “Still others are like the seeds sown among the thornbushes. These are the people who hear the word, but the worries of life, the deceitful pleasures of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word so that it can’t produce a crop.”
Our first point of interest in the third soil needs to be the issue of fruit. The presence of fruit or the lack of fruit sets the tone for how we interpret this soil. In the previous posts, I shared that the biblical sign of repentance before God is not growth—its fruit.
Matthew 3, 7, 13; John 15; Romans 7, Galatians 5, Ephesians 5, Colossians 1
All of these chapters speak of fruit as the sign of God activity. In this passage, notice where the emphasis placed. The desire for worldly things “chokes the word so that it can’t produce a crop.” Once again, the issue that Jesus raises with the third soil is that there is no fruit—no crop.
The second point of interest is the progressive nature of soil preparation. The first soil was completely hard and impenetrable. The second soil was tilled on top, but not deep enough to penetrate the bedrock. The third soil is sufficiently cultivated for good growth. We know that this because it produced good and bad growth alike. Everything was able to grow. The problem is the weeds choked out the good seed.
Key Thought for Soil Three: They don’t understand the exclusivity of the Gospel.
For this person, God is one among many interests. They are not turned off by God, but they are also not captured by His claims. Another way of saying it would be, they view God as a great addition to their life, but definitely not the essence of their life. We know this because there is a greater desire for the things of the world than for Christ. When forced to choose between God and the world, the world wins. This is an individual who is so consumed with the daily affairs of life (the mortgage, the work place, the raising of a family, the economy, hobbies, cars, retirement plans, etc.) that they have no time to think about or dwell upon the eternal truths of God. God’s things are choked out by worldly things.
Maybe you’ve heard someone make this comment: “That person is trying to fill the void in their life with things instead of God.” Compare that statement with the description found at the end of verse 18 and going through verse 19? “These are the people who hear the word, but the worries of life, the deceitful pleasures of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word so that it can’t produce a crop.”
Chances are, this person is somewhat advanced in age. I say that because a child is not concerned with “the worries of life, the pleasures of wealth, and the desires for other things.” This is a description of someone who knows the truth of the Gospel, but they are unwilling to turn from their pursuits to chase after Christ.
I believe that for more than 20 years of my life, this is the soil that described me. During this period of time, I prayed the prayer of repentance on numerous occasions. I wanted God to forgive my sin. I wanted to go to heaven when I died. I believed that Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day. I believe my life had been sufficiently cultivated by the Holy Spirit.
But…I wanted God for my selfish motives. I wanted God to keep me out of hell. I wanted God to bless my life. I wanted God to answer my prayers. I wanted God to be my friend. I wanted God to calm my fears. But I didn’t want God to live His life through me. I wanted to maintain control of my own life. I thought God would make a great addition to me. But God wasn’t offering to be an addition—He wanted to take over.
The problem I faced is the same one many people face. I wanted to pursue the world and keep God on the side. But Jesus taught, “You can only serve one master.” I wanted to maintain control of my life and have God’s blessing. But Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me—let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
I don’t want to sound like a doomsday Christian, but I am afraid that our churches are filled with people who match this exact soil. They go to church occasionally, they contribute to the offering, and they read the Bible periodically, they are interested in spiritual things, but they only want God at a distance. They want to run their life from day to day, and when things get tough—then they will call on God. But God’s not offering to be a safety net; He wants to be your life.
Please let the next statement sink in. There is nothing wrong with having hobbies, homes, cars, jobs, retirement plans, good friends, and favorite sports teams. The real question is, “Who has your heart at the end of the day?” Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
If you are forced to choose between intimacy with God or a ball game, who wins? When it comes to scheduling your life, does God take first priority and everything shifts around Him, or is God the first expendable time slot in your schedule? These are tough questions, but the implications are life and death.
Jesus makes the argument that in the 3rd soil, spiritual things are growing alongside of worldly things. This person is partially interested in God but primarily interested in the world. And it is their desire for the things of the world that chokes out the seed of God.
The third soil describes a person who is spiritual but lost. They have a form of Godliness, but they deny the power thereof. They have religion without relationship. And the tell-tell sign is not emotion, not activity, not church attendance, and not even clinging to a prayer. The tell-tell sign is a lack of fruit.
God’s fruit is not produced through their lives. There is no love for the things of God. There is no joy that passes all understanding. There is no peace during the hard times. There is no patience with people. There is no gentleness with others. There is no humility in their walk. There is no passion for holiness. In short, there’s no Christ.
What is the Christian’s response when they meet a person like this?
Love this person unconditionally and do not take a judgmental tone. The message of the Gospel will offend some people, but our delivery of that message should not.
Pray for conviction and clarity. (Refer to the Scriptures in the Hard Soil post)
Pray that God would remove all distractions from this person’s life, and bring them face to face with the reality of their spiritual condition.
Ask God to give you the courage to testify when an opportunity is given.
Continue to be a godly example before them.
Three out of four soil types have been addressed. Next week, we will see the final soil in light of Christ’s teachings.