Matthew 19:21 tells us that Jesus explained to a rich man, “ ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The Bible Reader’s Companion states that “When he [the rich young man] rejected the command of Christ, he broke the ‘first and great’ commandment of the Law: to love and serve God with his whole heart. Christ’s command revealed to the young man and to us that his money rather than his God came first.” It goes on to explain that “God doesn’t command us to give everything away. But we are to abandon all. There is to be nothing in our life that is so precious it keeps us from doing God’s will.”
I sometimes think that the sheer amount of things in our lives can keep us from doing God’s will. My daughter told me about the Bible story they did in class one Sunday: Jesus’ parable of the sower and the four different kinds of soil, found in Matthew 13:3-9. I was so proud as she told me each one of the soils—the path, rocky, thorny, and the good soil—although I wasn’t sure she quite had a grasp on exactly what each meant, except the “good soil,” where God could work in someone’s heart.
I think I’ve reached a place in my life where I’m recognizing the many thorns that have grown up around me. Not that God isn’t working in my life—I think he is, and I think down deep I have good soil. I do think, however, that the accumulation of “thorns” has been so slow and so gradual that I’m suddenly looking around as if seeing them for the first time. I think about starting out our marriage eating off a card table. Now we have a kitchen table and a dining room table, with the card table residing in the basement, pulled out for holidays when we need that extra space. Moving, very gradually, from a one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom (tiny!) apartment to a small, three-bedroom house…on and on it goes, so slowly, so gradually, but so steadily. Then one day you look around and wonder when it happened; when did you get so surrounded by “thorns” that it’s starting to interfere with Him? It makes me want to pull off all the excess, to cut back the weeds and thorns, to rid myself of all of it, completely, and return to being simple, good, rich soil. What could He do with me if He had that kind of soil to work with? What could He do if He were unencumbered—if I were unencumbered by this excess?