In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, we read about the seed that is sown among thorns. Worry and the deceitfulness of wealth are these thorns, which work to choke out the Word of God and cause us to stumble in faith. This author challenges us not to worry, but instead to bear fruit for God’s kingdom.

2012. 7 pages. Transcribed by Diana Bouwman. Transcription started at 5:24 and stopped at 38:36.

Anxiety Cuts the Mustard Lessons on Anxiety Series: Part 2

Read Matthew 13:2-8; Matthew 13:18-23 and Matthew 13:31-32

Pear trees do not grow apples and oak trees do not produce pears. Well, it stands to reason, doesn't it? This is only natural. We get this. Because trees produce fruit in accordance with their own nature. Now, there is an anomaly among trees which has occurred not because of what they have done but because of what individuals have done in altering their genetic structure. There are trees that were designed to bear fruit but no longer bear fruit; they are fruitless pear trees or fruitless cherry trees or fruitless apple trees. People don't want to bother with a fruit that comes from the trees and have to pick the fruit, so they would like the trees not to bear fruit. But this really is an anomaly, isn't it?

And it is also a contradiction. It is oxymoronic to think of Christians not bearing fruit. God did not design some Christians so that they would not bear fruit and other Christians so that they would bear fruit. That is not the case. God's design is that Christians, people like us, would bear fruit for the kingdom. And in our text, particularly in verse 22 of the interpretation of the parable that Jesus gives us, we see that worry of the world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes the Word, and the result is that the individuals spoken of do not bear fruit. This gives us an indication of the consequences of worry, and [highlights] the fact that we ought not to worry. You ought not to worry. Of course, we talked a little bit about this last week. Do not worry—that is the negative side. The positive side is: Bear fruit. Do not worry, bear fruit. That is the point I want you to get.

We are looking at a parable. Unlike other stories like Aesop's Fables or allegories (which are similar), parables are stories that can really take place. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, for example, rabbits and turtles really do not have races, and turtles cannot beat rabbits in a race. Those kind of things do not happen in real life. There is a moral to a story like this, but now in parables the situation is a little bit different. A parable is a story that Jesus gives (in this case) which could actually occur. Listen to the story:

And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.Matthew 13:3-8, NASB

You can picture this actually taking place. This is part of the genius of the parable. There is rocky soil and hard soil and thorny soil, and then there is a little plot that is good, and in that little plot the fruit occurs. The seed bears fruit. So it goes with the parable. It is a little story that can actually take place.

Jesus gives us an interpretation of the parable. I guess Jesus thinks (and in the intervening passage he actually tells us this) that parables often hide the truth from individuals. Some people are a little dense, so he wants to make sure we get the parable. So he gives us this interpretation. In this parable, the main characters are the sower and four types of people. The sower is probably God himself or the Lord Jesus Christ who is sowing the seed. He is about the business of sowing the seed of the kingdom, sowing gospel seed, talking about himself and talking about God's kingdom. And he says to us that the receivers of this Word are of four different types. At least, this is what he is telling us in this parable. Four different types of individuals.

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 the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. Matthew 13:18-19, NASB

The parable—the story that could actually take place—is teaching a spiritual truth. Seed is sown, and this first individual hears the Word and does not understand it. They hear it alright, but they do not understand. And the devil just snatches the Word away. No conversion and no fruit.

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.Matthew 13:20, NASB

Again, the individual hears the Word. “Wow, that is a great message! I really appreciate that message. I hear it! What a good message that is.” Jesus says they immediately receive it with joy, “yet he has no firm root in himself” (verse 21). They hear the Word, it tickles their ears, it palpitates their hearts a little bit, but there is no root that really goes down into the depths of their souls to change them. They receive the Word with joy. This is an individual perhaps who goes to an evangelistic meeting and hears the gospel and is all excited about what they hear, and this person looks like he or she is converted.

The Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter Catechism used this particular verse as a proof text for the concept of what the Westminster Divines called the “common operations of the Spirit” (Westminster Confession, 10.4). Look in the Confession and the Larger Catechism, especially under the heading Of Effectual Calling, where the catechisms and the Confession speaks about the person being convicted of sin and being enlightened by the Holy Spirit. The Westminster Divines called this conviction and this enlightenment the “common operations of the Spirit.” What they are saying in these passages is that these people may be the recipients of the common operations of the Spirit—they may have some light from the Holy Spirit and they may be convicted of sin—but they are never converted. Their wills are not altered by the power of the Spirit and they are never changed on the inside.

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.Matthew 13:20-21, NASB

There is a danger here, isn't there? There is a warning being issued. Then we come to verse 22:

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.Matthew 13:22, NASB

We are going to come back to that in a moment. And then there is the fourth individual:

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.Matthew 13:23, NASB

Did you get this? All four hear the Word! The one who hears and understands bears fruit for the kingdom and shows himself or herself to be a converted person.

Seed among Thorns🔗

Let's go back to verse 22:

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world…Matthew 13:22a, NASB, emphasis added

Since we are supposed to be talking about worry, I guess we have to understand this verse.

The Worry of the World🔗

The worry of the world. Last week we talked about this. It is the worry that stems from the things of the world. And what do the people of the world (Jesus calls them in Matthew 6 the Gentiles, the unbelievers) worry about? They worry about what they will eat. What will I eat? What will I wear? What will the future be like? Those are the big things. Right now, given the time of the year and the election cycle, many are worried about what is going to take place in the future. What will my future be like? Will I be able to get a job? Will I be able to put food on the table? Will I be able to buy clothes for my children? Will I have health care insurance? Will I be able to get the operation that is needed? Will my elderly parents be able to get the operation that is needed? Worry! Worry! Worry! The worries of the world.

This is what Jesus is getting at. The third man individual (it might be a young person, or a young gal, or an older woman) Jesus speaks of here is the worrier. Later on in this series I have a title: Worrywarts are Near-sighted. The worrywart. Some of you know this kind of a person. They are just perpetually worried about things. When you go up and say, “How are you doing today?” they say, “Well, I don’t know. I just don't know. It's just my grandmother….my daughter…” It is just one thing after the other!

The Deceitfulness of Wealth🔗

Jesus says then:

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealthMatthew 13:23a, NASB, emphasis added

The deceitfulness of wealth. Let's say something here that is important: Money is not evil. The Bible does not say that money is evil. But Paul the apostle does say that the love of money is the root of all evil. Go back to Matthew 6 and look at a couple of verses that we were unable to unpack last week. The worries of the world are connected with the deceitfulness of riches! Matthew 6:19: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Do not treasure earthly possessions.

The other morning when I was cool I went to my closet and pulled out a pair of wool trousers that I really like. I put them on and got ready to go to the seminary. I got in the car and I looked down, and I was embarrassed. I thought, “I shouldn't be wearing these trousers at all!” They were full of moth holes. So when I got home, my dear wife said, “We better check the other two pair of trousers that are like those,” and they were in similar condition, full of moth holes. Out they go! We do not treasure those things. Those trousers are not the important thing in life.

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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21, NASB, emphasis added

Then the question comes: Where is your heart? Is your heart centred on physical things in this world? A car? A house? A certain outfit that was recently procured? A pair of shoes, or twenty pairs of shoes? Where is your heart? And if your heart is affixed on physical things, then your focus is totally wrong according to the Scriptures. Where your treasure is, your heart will be also. And your heart is to be affixed on Jesus! Your heart is to be on Christ, the One who is seated at the right hand of the Father. You are to look to him! Is that not the case? Is this not the perspective you and I ought to have as Christians?

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth…Matthew 13:22a, NASB

The deceitfulness of wealth. Wealth can be deceitful because we think wrongly that that wealth will give us certain things. You know as well as I do that there are many people in this world who are very wealthy but are the most miserable creatures that walked the face of the earth. And yet we can be jealous of them because of their wealth! No friends! No! It is deceit! The devil is full of deceit and lies.

We keep getting these envelopes in the mail for some giveaway program. The ads are on television, and we feel we have to get that thing filled out and sent in. There are hundreds of hours spent on sending those applications in, and the probability of anyone winning in one of those contests is something like one in fifty million. Why do you put your hopes in something like that? But some do! It is deceit. The deceitfulness of wealth. The worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth.

The Result of Worry🔗

And now look at the text. What does worry do?

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word.Matthew 13:22, NASB, emphasis added

You might say, “But pastor, the Bible says, ‘The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of God lasts forever.’” Yes, that is true. But now here you are, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, sitting together in worship, singing the psalms (which are part of the Word of God), hearing the Scriptures read and hearing the proclamation of the truth of God, and your mind is off somewhere grinding away, concerned and worried about that project at the office this coming week or that fundraiser that you are involved in next week. And so it goes. As you are singing the Word of God, your mind is off somewhere, not really thinking about and concentrating on the words that you are saying. Is it too close to home? Is this not the case? Why can I say this? A hundred times over I found myself in the pew doing exactly the same thing, to my shame. The Word of God is choked out. We do not even hear it. It is choked out. This is what happens to us.

We see the picture so readily and so easily. We prepare the plot of ground carefully and sow the grass seed. But the next door neighbour has no care about dandelions, and pretty soon all those beautiful little puff balls are coming out, and all those seeds are over there on that freshly seeded area. Pretty soon there is dandelions everywhere and the grass is choked out. The grass is choked out. This is the picture Jesus is giving us. That worry chokes out the Word. And what happens? No fruit. This is what happens. No fruit. This is the point I was getting at. Don't worry, bear fruit. The worries of the world choke the Word so there is no fruit.

Do Not Worry, Bear Fruit🔗

Realize now that in the very next verse Jesus speaks about the individual who bears fruit:

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.Matthew 13:23, NASB

Here is a different kind of person: A person that hears the Word and understands the Word, and the Word is not choked out by weeds. It drills down deeply into the heart so that the individual is changed. The real indication of change in your life and in my life is the fruit that you bear: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, meekness and self-control. It is the fruit that you bear. This is how Jesus puts it: “You shall know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16). You shall know them by their fruit. And worry chokes out the Word and the fruit of the Word. Don't worry, bear fruit.

(Transcription of audio file from 33:35 to 34:10 omitted.)

[Jesus] presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.Matthew 13:31-32, NASB

Here is a little seed. It grows up into a great big plant and bears fruit, and part of the fruit is that it becomes a resting place for others. But worry comes along with an axe, and chop, chop, chop, it cuts down the mustard tree! It cuts down the mustard seed. Worry Cuts the Mustard: That is the sermon title. That is not what you want. Worry can be devastating. This is what you and I must realize, dear friends in Christ: Worry can have devastating consequences. Worry chokes off the vitality of the Word of God. It distracts you from the Word of God, and the Word of God does not take root in your heart, and the fruit God designs does not come forth.

And the opposite is true. This is part of the significance of what we are looking at. When you do bear fruit—and praise God, dear friends, you do bear fruit, and how good it is to see the fruit come forth—this is a testimony that your life has actually been changed by God. The only way that there can possibly be a heart within you that is receptive to the gospel of Jesus Christ and loves Jesus Christ and loves the cross and loves the fact that Jesus Christ bore your sins, the only way that that can actually take place is if God changes your heart and makes you into fertile ground in which the seed falls and there is root. And when you do bear fruit, it is an indication of the fact that God—the merciful, gracious, loving God—in Jesus Christ has changed your life.

So the very simple truth that arises from this text is: Don't worry—beware of worry, unburden your life from the worries of this world and the deceitfulness of riches—and bear fruit for the kingdom, some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred. And understand that that fruit in your life is a result of God's grace. It testifies to you and testifies to the world that Jesus Christ has changed you and made you into a new creature. Don't worry, friends, bear fruit.

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