By Daniel Whitley
Jesus once told us this provocative and interesting story. There are some hidden truths here that we should consider when deciding the priorities in our lives. This story is recorded in Luke chapter eight (all emphases mine).
Luke 8:5-8, 11-14: “A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. “
He went further, beginning in verse eleven, to explain the meaning of this story: “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (12) Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. (13) They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. (14) And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. (15) But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
This is a valuable parable in that it reveals to us some satanic priorities. It states, in order, the priorities that Satan has for your life and mine. Look closely.
Priority one is to prevent your conversion. This is seen in verse twelve. Revealed is his desire to take the Word from you before it takes root and brings you to salvation. Funny, isn’t it, how we can remember in vivid detail what we had for breakfast last Friday but cannot remember the message preached two hours ago. In fact, usually by the time we get to the car, it’s gone. This is not incidental. It is by design. When this thief comes to steal, he does not steal your stereo. He takes the Word out of your heart lest you believe and be saved.
Priority two is to cause you to fall away. This is seen in verse thirteen. If Satan fails in his first priority and we become converted despite his efforts, immediately he moves his focus to priority two, causing us to fall away. This is accomplished through temptation. “For . . . in time of temptation [they] fall away.” Don’t fall away.
Priority three is to cause you to be fruitless or ineffective. Provided that he could not prevent your conversion and provided he could not cause you to fall away, the third priority is to “choke” you and render you fruitless or ineffective. This is accomplished through “cares and riches and pleasures,” materialism. Materialism chokes us.
Let’s break this down. Satan keeps you lost. Temptation causes backsliding. Materialism smothers you with care and causes ineffectiveness. This is what Jesus taught in this parable.
It is the third priority that we are dealing with in this book. Materialism consists of cares, riches, and pleasures. Those who seek riches afflict themselves with worries and cares.
I Timothy 6:10 (emphasis mine): “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
If you are puzzled as to why we are ineffective as Christians, the answer is most likely materialism. Inherent in materialism is worry or “cares,” which afflicts us with impotence.
Let’s see what Jesus said about the cares associated with this curse.
Matthew 6:24-30 (NIV) (emphases mine): “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [Here He disabuses us of the notion that godliness and materialism can coexist.] Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
The irony is that the more God blesses us, the less we trust Him. The more He gives us, the less we acknowledge Him. The more we have, the more we trust ourselves and the things that are given us. This is perverted, but it is true.
We worry about all the things we have, and we think that the answer is to get more things. Somebody help us!
Jesus said look at birds and think about flowers. That’s right, the greatest psychiatrist who ever lived took man onto His couch, peered into his worried, troubled mind, and prescribed this as the treatment: “Behold the fowls of the air” and “consider the lilies of the field.” They fly higher than you do.
They smell sweeter than you do. They are clothed more beautifully than you are, and they are not concerned about it. Feed me, God. Clothe me, Lord. I will seek something else in my few months on Your beautiful earth.
Don’t allow materialism and the cares that go with it to render you fruitless.
Anytime a preacher talks about materialism, he runs the risk of being pegged as another leech who wants your money. Let me assuage that fear immediately. You bought the book; that’s all I want from you. This plague of materialism facing the church is a genuine threat to our effectiveness now in the church’s most critical moment.
God told Israel, “Hey, I’m gonna drop manna every morning. Eat all you want, but don’t start piling it up in your tent, because it will start stinking.” So they, of course, immediately started piling it in their tents. You won’t believe what happened then. It started stinking. It became infested with worms and made everything else stink.
Give me a moment here to recount the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. They did not need to search for food, plant crops, or hunt game. God gave them manna. They did not need to search for water, dig wells, or carry barrels. God gave them a rock that followed them. They did not need to seek direction in the daytime, for they had a cloud to go before them; at night it was fire in the sky providing both light and direction. They did not need to make or mend clothing. God made their clothing durable and adaptable. Basically all they had to do was lean forward and drop one foot in front of the other. They did not make it. Amazing!
They could never make it as long as they had the mentality that focused on the blessing and would never recognize the One who blesses.
This mentality was illustrated by the storing of the manna. It all has to do with how we view the blessings of God. Do we view them as something to be hoarded and to be doted over, or do we view them as a means to fuel us to our final destination? As long as we are possessed with piling up the blessings for the sake of piling them up, we will find that they will stink a little worse every day. It is also likely that such a mentality will defeat itself. God could not sweep their path of enough obstacles. He could not bless them enough to get them to the Promised Land. We do not need more blessings. We do not need fewer obstacles. What we need to do is get our eyes off the blessings. Receive them, give thanks, and look forward. They are not the destination; they are the filling stations which are scattered along the road on the way to our greatest moment.
Gain and God have interesting interaction within all of us. I Timothy 6:5-11 (NIV) (emphases mine): “Men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”
This is quite an indictment of the gospel of greed that is being preached in the world of commercial Christianity today. We are convinced that the great apostle must have reversed the equation here. The Scripture says:
Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain
We, however, are persuaded that it should be more like this:
Godliness + Great Gain = Contentment
We are simply confused by “corrupt minds” as to which is the factor and which is the sum. Notice that the “Great Gain” does not appear in the middle of the equation (it is not a factor); it is at the end of the equation (it is the sum). The sum is the conclusion of all factors. If you and I can be concerned with the sum, with the ultimate victory, and not so much about the fate of the factor (flesh), victory will be unavoidable. Gideon’s focus must be the success of the overall plan (the sum), not simply with the well-being of the pitcher.
This little poem that I wrote when I was twenty years old points out the difference between true contentment and the mere acceptance of our limitations.
Is contentment so great
Or is it nothing more
Than disguising the hate
we have of each closed door?
Are we painting stripes on the pole
that pierces our soul with pain?
Thinking the pain in our chest
will somehow be less if decoratively slain.
Praying our futile trust
its brutal thrust has slown,
Pretending to choose discreetly to lose
what we can’t in reality own.
Some resent limitations. Some embrace restraint. The difference is very important.
Even our vocabulary reflects our egocentric, pitcher-oriented priority system. Here’s a test. Read this verse and see what it means to you.
Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
What does this verse mean to you? I think I know roughly the way most folks think concerning this verse.
My question could be better asked this way: Which word in the verse is the key to its meaning? Go ahead. Examine this verse carefully, and then I will tell you on the next page what I think is the key word.
The key word is the word good. This word good has a particular meaning to us. It means something entirely different to God.
To us the word good means prosperity, pleasure, comfort, delightful rewards. It tells us that everything will eventually turn out to our liking. To God the word good has a very simple and different meaning. It simply means “the opposite of evil.” In God’s lexicon, there is good and there is evil. In our lexicon, there is good and there are the things we don’t like.
Let’s recite the same verse, employing God’s definition of the word. All things in our lives work together for the opposition of evil if we love God and answer His call. That is not what you want to hear, is it?
Birds, flowers. Flowers, birds. Birds, birds, flowers, birds, birds, flowers.
This article “Look at Birds and Think about Flowers” written by Daniel E. Whitley, was excerpted from the book A Pitcher’s Purpose. It may be used for study and research purposes only.